Noel (2004) Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penelope Cruz, Alan Arkin, Chazz Palminteri, Marcus Thomas Movie Review

Noel (2004)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Susan Sarandon as Rose Collins in Noel (2004)

One Holey Night

Susan Sarandon is a brilliant actress, she can do super sexy but also mumsy, in "Noel" she plays older single, caring daughter, so not so sexy or mumsy but more concerned and as you would expect she delivers a solid performance. But Susan Sarandon isn't the only star in "Noel" as she shares the screen with Chazz Palminteri, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Paul Walker and Penelope Cruz a mixed array of talent in a mixed movie. I say mixed because "Noel" is one of those movie which has seemingly individual stories which miraculously end up interweaving and with it playing out just before Christmas delivers a heart warming sentimental message.

It's Christmas Eve and lone book publisher Rose Collins (Susan Sarandon - Stepmom) is visiting the hospital where her mother is living due to Alzheimer's disease, it is where she meets a stranger when she pops in to see another seriously ill patient. At the same time New Cop Mike Riler (Paul Walker - 2 Fast 2 Furious) is struggling to deal with his jealous streak when it comes to his attractive fiancee Nina (Penelope Cruz) causing them to argue and separate. But Mike is stalked by a stranger, Artie (Alan Arkin - America's Sweethearts) who believes he knows him. Plus there is Jules (Marcus Thomas) who wants to spend Christmas in hospital because he remembers his best Christmas was when he spent it there as a 14 year old. As Christmas Eve progresses these separate people manage to cross paths as their stories unravel.

Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker in Noel (2004)

The thing is that whilst "Noel" aims to be a touching story revolving around these tenuously linked people it doesn't quite work. It seems to take ages, meandering around setting up the various stories of lonely 40 something book editor, overly jealous cop, his girlfriend and the one around the man longing to relive Christmas past. It gets to the point that you start to wonder when anything truly significant will happen, whether there really is more to "Noel" than just meandering stories which don't really appear to be heading anywhere.

There lies an issue because it does finally develop these individual storylines as they tenuously cross paths but it takes them off into an almost fantasy world which for me was a mistake. Now there are movies, many of which that tell a tale over the Christmas period, which manage to combine realism and fantasy but "Noel" fails. It sort of ends up feeling absurd, unexpected and frankly a little disappointing causing a knock on effect of making the heart warming and emotional climax far too contrived and obvious. In many ways if "Noel" had somehow insinuated to this slightly fantasy element before springing it on us it would possibly have worked, but because it is almost plucked out of thin air it spoils things.

Strangely despite ending up having a slightly surreal storyline the characters and performances are remarkably good. Susan Sarandon who is for most the main focus delivers an effective performance as Rose the lonely, tired 40 something. Sarandon delivers the right amount of vulnerability to the character, unease when being close to men but also a touch of despair as she desperately wants to reconnect with her mother before Alzheimer's disease takes her completely.

Alongside Susan Sarandon are decent performances from Paul Walker and Penelope Cruz as Mike the jealous Cop and his seriously hot fiancee Nina. Understandably "Noel" plays heavily on their sex appeal but at the same time allows both Walker and Cruz to deliver more character depth than expected. Plus there are some nice supporting performances from Robin Williams and Alan Arkin. Even Chazz Palminteri who directed "Noel" also crops up in a small role.

The only real disappointment is not so much from the performance of Marcus Thomas, rather his character Jules Calvert. It feels almost like an afterthought, used to fill in between what appear to be the main storylines revolving around Rose, Mike and Nina. So much so that the when the emotional pay off comes in Jules situation it almost feels insignificant because his character is never really built upon.

What this all boils down to is that "Noel" has some nice touches and decent performances but are sadly spoiled by a meandering storyline which ends up becoming contrived due to the element of fantasy. Although set over a Christmas period it's not really overly Christmassy and the emotional, heart warming ending is wasted because of its flight into fantasy.

Tags: Christmas Movies