Noel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Noel 

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A weak Christmas movie denies loneliness and despair; a strong one, like It's a Wonderful Life, confronts them. This ensemble drama by screenwriter David Hubbard isn't perfect, but its harsh honesty and sincere faith in humanity make it genuinely uplifting. Its Manhattan characters trudge desolately through the forced merriment of the holiday: a divorced book editor (Susan Sarandon) whose mother has been erased by Alzheimer's, a beautiful dancer (Penelope Cruz) whose fiance can't overcome his violent jealousy, an old man (Alan Arkin) whose grief over his wife's death has made him delusional, and a poor young man (Marcus Thomas) whose holiday plans consist of crashing a party at a hospital emergency ward. Their paths cross, and some of them are saved by acts of kindness. But not all of them. Chazz Palminteri makes his directing debut; with Paul Walker and Robin Williams. PG, 96 min. Village, Wilmette.

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