It never occurred to me until I actually saw the two of them on the cover of a movie together. But when I did, I realized that Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd would make a perfect cinematic pairing. It seems so obvious to me now, of course, having witnessed the brilliant give-and-take of their performances opposite one another in All is Bright (2013). But it took Junebug (2005) director, Phil Morrison, to bring them together in this interesting and unconventional, if not entirely successful, Christmas movie.
Paul Giamatti stars as Dennis, a recently paroled Quebecois thief who returns home to find that his wife is engaged to another man and has told their daughter he painfully died of cancer. The other man in question: Rene (Paul Rudd), a reformed thief whose failure to show up at a safe job is what landed Dennis in prison in the first place. Desperate for work, Dennis forces Rene to take him with him on a trip to sell Christmas trees in New York City, representing one of the most unique set ups for an unlikely buddy movie I’ve heard in ages.
While Giamatti and Rudd play the characters with total conviction, allowing their tentative friendship to grow naturally out of the crises they encounter, the film becomes structurally labored after only a short period of time. When not turning to predictable conflicts with potential tree buyers, the film relies heavily on an endless cycle of bickering between Dennis and Rene, which results in one storm-off after another with (typically) Rene silently hurrying off with hurt feelings. And he conveniently doesn’t return until Dennis seems to have learned something about himself. That these spats occur in the same place each time—the men’s Christmas tree lot—inevitably makes the film seem needlessly arduous. Were Rene not so prone to storming off, the conflicts could have been resolved more quickly and saved us a bit of the tediousness I’ve hinted at by trimming off a good ten minutes or so of the 107-minute running time.
In spite of any shortcomings, though, the opportunity to see Giamatti and Rudd play opposite each other, which they do so wonderfully, definitely makes All is Bright well worth a watch at least. And you’ll be able to pick it up All is Bright on November 19, 2013, when it’s released on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unfortunately, the film will be released sans special features, though. I would have loved to have seen some interviews or a commentary included here, that we might garner some understanding of this collaboration behind-the-scenes.