Before watching the movie:
I found this because I was looking for Christmas movies. I thought I knew what this movie was about, then I read more than one description. Now I’m less sure. Something about a crisis hotline, and somehow a tangled mess of relationships is involved.
Lots of big-to-medium names here. It’s sold as a comedy, and Steve Martin is in it, so it should be fun.
After watching the movie:
Philip is the head of a suicide hotline who finds out on Christmas Eve that his organization (himself, Mrs. Munchnik, and Catherine) is being evicted from their tenement apartment office. They can barely afford their current expenses, let alone the $5,000 it would cost to relocate. Determined not to ruin his coworkers’ day, he hides the eviction notice from them, even as his own day continues to get worse when his girlfriend dumps him over the phone (because he doesn’t have a fax number). Meanwhile, Gracie is trying to break up with Felix, her broke artist boyfriend and the father of the child she’s expecting, but he’s desperate to make her stay, so Gracie asks her friend Catherine if she can stay with her for a while, bringing that mess into the office. And Christine, a transwoman desperate for some company that won’t deride her like her family, calls up the hotline and begs to be allowed to visit in person, until Philip caves and gives the address. So that’s in the mix too.
It’s entirely unsurprising this is a remake of a French film. Ensemble character pieces are rare in Hollywood. There are so many characters to keep track of, and they keep talking. The dialogue is fast and plentiful (once the story gets going), and sometimes even funny enough to laugh at. If this were an audio play, you’d lose none of the story but about a third of the jokes.
I’m also impressed by how (relatively) tastefully transgenderism was included in this film made by a Hollywood production company. Others closer to the issue might find something, but I don’t think there was anything disrespectful about Christine’s portrayal. Other characters, even main characters, disrespect her, but they are played as insensitive for doing so. On the other hand, Phillip dancing with her to make her feel valued (even though he’s trying desperately to hide how uncomfortable he is) makes one of the best moments in the film.
I found a lot of the humor hit or miss. There’s a lot that seems to be trying to be funny but didn’t really make it, including a lot of the usual awkward situations and “they’d rather be mad at each other than talk about the gross misunderstanding” plotting. On the other hand, there’s a lot that made me laugh very hard. Uusually involving Mrs. Munchnik, which is a bit unfortunate because I overall would have preferred she not be in the story at all. I also didn’t see much use for Adam Sandler’s character, who goes from being a barely-seen neighbor for most of the movie to getting caught up in the zenith of craziness in the third act. He’s doing the kind of humor he liked best back then, which was being as pathetically dumb as possible and hoping it came off cute.
I think this is a pretty unusual movie overall. The dialogue is mostly well-written, and the meandering plot ties up well in the end. I’m surprised it got made, but I’m glad it came to my attention. It feels much more Indie than what I’d expect from a company like Tristar, and gets to show off a lot of talent.
Watch this movie: when you’re burned out after the eighth remake of A Christmas Carol.
Don’t watch this movie: for consistent comedy and pacing.