Written and Directed by David E. Talbot
Starring Danny Glover, Mo'Nique, Omar Epps, Kimberly Elise, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, J.B. Smoove, Jessie T. Usher, John Michael Higgins, Keri Hilson
Christmas Film Review by Chris Olson
Christmas is a time for families, whether you like each other or not. Comedy drama Almost Christmas from filmmaker David E. Talbot takes this idea and laces it with a strong sense of pathos, by having its main characters coming together for their first family Christmas since the passing of one of their own. What ensues is a cacophony of suppressed anxieties, bitter resentment, and holiday drama.
Danny Glover plays the lead role of Walter, a man recovering from the recent loss of his wife, whom by all accounts was an incredible woman. It's her ethereal presence that shapes the atmosphere of Walter's beautiful family home as his offspring join him five days before Christmas. Rocking up with either their kids, partners, and/or baggage (physical and emotional), Walter's relatives soon make up the ingredients for a Christmas calamity.
There is a degree of National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation about Talbot's Almost Christmas that makes it feel very worn before it even starts. For a movie that emerged in 2016, it seems not much has changed when it comes to making a Christmas comedy. The characters are mostly glossy and flat, the plot is nonsensical, and the filmmaking aesthetic relies heavily on a schmaltzy score and rich lighting. Ultimately meaning that there is nothing edgy or memorable about this Yuletide offering.
That being said, a few moments of sparkle can be found among the bland tree branches, such as the emotional core which gets revealed a couple of times during the film. The loss of the matriarch hits different characters in different ways, the best of which happens to rising football star Evan (Jessie T. Usher) in the latter half of Almost Christmas. There are some beautifully poignant moments with Walter attempting to recreate his wife's sweet potato pie late at night in the kitchen. Another enjoyable part of this film was Mo'Nique who plays Walter's thunderous sister-in-law, whose stinging quips and showbiz anecdotes were hilarious. She also delivers a line about a dildo which is simply brilliant.
The major issue with a film like this is chaos. The plot is as overstuffed as the turkey and just as dry. Talbot attempts to stitch together a myriad of subplots for each of the characters, most of which end up undercooked or pointless, and increases the need for contrivance and unbelievable character motivations and behaviour. Without all this unnecessary noise, Talbot could have hit home harder with the stronger emotional points of his film and rendered his audience inert rather than unconvinced.
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