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HTF DVD REVIEW: Noëlle (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Reviewer
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Location
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Matt Hough

Noëlle
Directed by David Wall

Studio: Paramount
Year: 2007
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: PG
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: November 11, 2008
Review Date: October 31, 2008


The Film

2.5/5

There’s heart and spirit in David Wall’s Noëlle but an awful lot of mediocrity, too. A Christmas tale that revolves around two priests both undergoing crises of faith, a community whose involvement with the church is crumbling, and an unwed mother-to-be looking for love, Noëlle is just a bit overcrowded with plots and characters, none of whom get enough development to allow the film to rise above mundane basic cable fodder. That this got a theatrical release and won some awards in some film festivals is something of a surprise.

Father Jonathan Keene (David Wall) has been sent to a Massachusetts parish by his archdiocese to inspect a church on its last legs being led by Father Simeon Joyce (Sean Patrick Brennan). The two are old friends, but that cuts no mustard with Father Keene whose steely, impersonal approach to his priestly duties is the antithesis of his friend Father Joyce. As Father Joyce struggles to increase church attendance and community involvement, Father Keene suggests a living nativity for Christmas Eve which will involve many in the town who have drifted away from the church. The problem is that the town’s matriarch Mrs. Eleanor Worthington (Jean Bates) holds a huge party for the town every Christmas Eve which lessens interest in the pageant from the community at large. Also, there’s no suitable candidate to play Mary. The most obvious choice, Mrs. Worthington’s niece Marjorie (Kerry Wall) is pregnant with her married lover’s child, not making her a prime candidate for the position. As the two fathers struggle with their various problems, we get to learn quite a bit about each of the men and their doubts about remaining priests.

Not only has David Wall directed the film, he’s also produced it, written it, and cast what appears to be his entire family in various roles. The screenplay is at the same time overcrowded with plot strands and characters but undernourished , too, not fleshing out characters in meaningful ways but rather establishing traits by having people blurt out their intentions or feelings after consuming a bit too much alcohol. Climaxes arrive abruptly without proper preparation, and the film feels haphazard in its last third trying to tie up so many plot points overly quickly. The direction is rudimentary with rather bland staging of certain scenes, and with a wide range of acting talent (often veering toward the amateur), the film never seems more than pedestrian. There are some evocative shots of Cape Cod in winter: the steel blue of a lake at night and the gorgeous sunset oranges and purples do lend the film a lovely ambience that offsets some of the banality of the script and the playing a bit.

David Wall’s John has a sub Robert Redford-ish quality early on, rather quiet and thoughtful and speaking in hushed tones. That all vanishes as the melodramatic flourishes of the script take him elsewhere later in the movie, and he becomes less effective and less believable. Sean Patrick Brennan’s character is less well written, but he seems to stay more within the character than Wall. Kerry Wall’s disoriented mother-to-be is a halting performance veering from sureness to uncertainty as her cryptic role dictates. Curt Dewitz scores well as her married lover who’s waffling about leaving his wife for her, but his part, too, is underwritten.


Video Quality

3.5/5

The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions for this DVD release. Sharpness is slightly above average in medium shots and close-ups while long shots look quite soft and indistinct. There are no compression artifacts to interrupt one’s attention, but despite good color and more than adequate black levels, the picture is never quite as crisp as one might like. The film has been divided into 8 chapters though there is no chapter index on the main menu.

Audio Quality

3.5/5

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is surround in name only. The sound mix is completely front centric with any sound in the rears merely seepage from the front channels. There is some bass that comes through with Andrew Ingkavet’s score (which features some nice jazz riffs on some familiar Christmas tunes), but this is no reference quality soundtrack.


Special Features

0/5

Apart from previews of the upcoming or already in release Hotel for Dogs, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Charlotte’s Web, there are no bonus features.


In Conclusion

2.5/5 (not an average)

Not destined to become a Christmas classic, Noëlle is a story of faith lost and found competently told but no more. An average at best DVD presentation can’t quite earn a recommendation from me.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
 

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