Broke, homeless, and on parole is no way to spend the holidays. For Dennis (Paul Giamatti), it’s no way to live either. He chums up to his ex-wife’s new lover and his prior go-to teammate in theft Rene (Paul Rudd) for an escape.
Rene has a low rent Christmas Tree operation in New York, something to swing some holiday cash and pull the family from any ruts. It’s a straight way to make cash despite a road trip across the Canadian/US border. This is a Quebec tale relocated to America’s coast.
Dennis has no desire to play straight. He remains a habitual thief, even out of habit, picking at wallets or small items as he passes them. Maybe it’s the brooding anger he carries for Rene and those feelings he still holds dear for his ex. Either way, the mismatched pair is an abysmal business coupling.
Much of All Is Bright uses anger as a catalyst, whether for drama or comedy. Rudd and Giamatti indicate comedy until emotional breakdowns swell to encompass much of the film. Bright carries some of the twisted holiday spirit – Dennis threatening a rival tree salesman at saw point – but muddles itself with meager pacing and sour personalities.
Dennis finds himself lost living without thievery. Taken in by a Russian immigrant Olga (Sally Hawkins), Dennis’ character arc begins movement toward revelation but ultimately succumbs to ingrained nature. Facing off with Rene leads to confrontation and eventual contrivance as Bright falls on its own hard times searching for resolution.
Phil Morrison directs, previously responsible for Junebug and seemingly trying for the same arid dryness found in that 2005 indie knockout. Bright proves ultimately too unsightly to gain similar exposure, and puts much of its weight in the lap of its two stars. Performance hits are frequent without material to offer cushioning support in the narrative to soften those sagging lulls.
Christmas does not come early for All Is Bright. In fact, it never comes at all.
Appearing with a vintage sepia sheen, All Is Bright comes equipped with a grumpy look. Sagging black levels are an immediate flub without any correction as the film moves forward. Depth is unfounded and ultimately a killer to visual appeal. An attempted hold up by blindingly bright light sources (with softening effects applied) only serve to further wash out each shot.
Anchor Bay’s AVC encode needs commitment to push through the source grain structure. Compression proves commendable with few problematic moments. Much of Bright features a thin layer of natural, textural film grain without artifacts. Those few pockets of shots which become marked as a miss are easily passed over.
Underneath the source’s decision making is a layer of fidelity which flips its nose up against the softer cinematography. Close-ups can be appealing with texture and resolution proves commanding in certain moments. Bright flicks away any instances of digital filters for a consistent if ultimately dreary Blu-ray appearance. Medium shots hold their own and those long pans of New York have some momentary sharpness. The disc looks like displayed film, even if that film is purposefully dulled.
All Is Bright will muster some old fashioned New York ambiance to swell up its direct TrueHD track. Car horns, sirens, and chatter from passer-bys slip into the surrounds almost unnoticed unless you are eager to detect them. The film avoids instances of stereo separation for its dialog, keeping a center channel focus with clarity as a goal.
Only some mild music will spruce up Bright, including a late piano piece which floods each channel effectively with superb fidelity. The sequence carries positive energy with reverb into the rears. It becomes a pleasant moment in a film often pushing ugly dialog exchanges.
No extras. Nope, not one. A few trailers play prior to menu, but there is nothing selectable to view.
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