Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nothing Like The Holidays

Christmas Carols

Christmas has become so commercialized, no thanks to Santa Claus and the spirit of consumerism having to buy, buy, and buy some more to meet those pesky wish-lists of friends and family. I guess there's this feel good feeling to this holiday because it's just at the edge of the new year, and it's the spirit of sharing good tidings, and to look forward to better things ahead in the new year. But I share similar sentiments with the head of the Puerto Rican Rodriguez household, that it should be none other than a festival to have everyone get together.

Edy Rodriguez (Alfred Molina) and wife Anna (Elizabeth Pena) look forward to Christmas because it's a time where family members far and wide, and doing their own thing, get to come back home to share in the festive spirit. This year's gathering is all the more special, because son Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) is permanently home from his tour of duty in Iraq. There's eldest son Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his wife Sarah (Debra Messing) who are two accomplished corporate folks in New York, and daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) who's a Hollywood star in the waiting. Add friends such as Johnny (Luis Guzman) and Ozzy (Jay Hernandez) and you have one happening get together party, right?

Not quite, as the veneer of what would be a joyous occasion, get marred by everyone bringing their baggage to the table. Anna and Edy contemplate divorce, Jesse gets flak for being the hero, as well as being co-opted to run the family provision shop business. He also continues to nurse an aching heart toward ex flame Marissa (Melonie Diaz) who has now moved on. Mauricio and Sarah's marriage get strained by her refusal to bear children because of an impending promotion which she doesn't want to jeopardize. Roxanna is nowhere near being a star, still stuck at bit parts on television. Whew!

While billed as a comedy, it's not laugh a minute, even though there were a couple of smart one-liners to tickle your funny bone. Instead, it's quite a thoughtful drama to see how each character navigates through the sea of their own problems, and whether they are able to come out tops. And everyone could identify with one or more of the characters, especially in their attitudes toward family member, being envious of the more successful sibling, of favouritism, of being at loggerheads, of reconciliation, and ultimately, the notion of blood being thicker than water.

Not all subplots get resolved amicably and reasonably, which roots this film to a tinge of realism rather than opting for a feel good fairy tale styled finale where every loose end gets tied up with a smile. Which makes this film stand out amongst the crowd of feel good Christmas theme movies out there this season. It's quite a compelling drama to sit through despite some story threads being just a little bit bare, but for the powerful ensemble cast pulling everything through as a convincing family unit, you might want to invest some time on this film as well.

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