Joy is just around the corner when Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Paul Walker, and Alan Arkin fill out an all-star cast in this holiday classic. As five strangers come together on Christmas Eve, a story of peace, companion... more »ship, comfort, love, and healing unfolds against the backdrop of New York City. Noel, with its stunning cast and inspirational story, proves miracles are closer than you think.« less
"This is a great xmas pic. The cast is incredible. Susan is flawless. Paul Walker is a revelation in a great dramatic romantic role. Penelope sambas! The stories are real and touching. Six very new york characters, each searching for someone on a christmas eve, find one another on christmas day. Great viewing cuddled up on the sofa with a date or the entire family. Cinematography and music are academy award caliber."
Worthwhile Year-round Movie
D. Hupp | Woodbridge, VA United States | 12/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think the film has some good acting by Paul Walker, Susan Sarandon, and Penelope Cruz and some enjoyable plot twists that will entertain those looking for an enjoyable Christmas story in a modern-day setting.
The movie isn't likely to win any major awards, but it's better than most holiday dramas and many non-holiday films. I think young and more mature adults alike will enjoy NOEL. It's an excellent "date" flick.
Penelope Cruz will appeal to both men and women but for different reasons, but I think children and young teen viewers should be "spared" her bulging cleavage and ultra-mini skirts. I was most "surprised" by Paul Walker's performance. Early in the film I thought his character would be 1-dimensional (i.e., an over-the-top jealous lover), but I think he gives a believable performance as the "macho hunk" who is a man of heart, soul, and some depth of character.
Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon redeem each other and contribute to an uplifting climatic twist to end the movie on a hopeful, redemptive note. Definitely worth seeing."
Christmas is obviously a time of miracles in Noel.
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With its unabashed melodrama, it's hokey premise and contrived plot; it's hard to imagine that Noel has anything going for it. It's such a thick and gooey slice of holiday bunkum and it's hard to understand why an estimable actor like Chazz Palminteri chose David Hubbard's awkward script for his directing debut. On the up side, however, Palminteri is able to draw some very fine performances from his cast - which actually makes Noel worth watching.
Set in New York on Christmas Eve, Noel follows a disparate group of lonely souls, whose lives will eventually intersect. Susan Sarandon is a middle-aged workaholic book editor, a man-shy divorcée who desperately tries to communicate with her mother who is in the final stages of Alzheimer's. Gorgeous office worker Nina (Penélope Cruz) and her strapping, hunky taxi driver fiancé, Mike (Paul Walker), are madly in love, but Mike's jealousy - he breaks out into fits of rage when another man even looks at her - threatens to derail their relationship.
Alan Arkin is a diner employee who in turn is convinced that his late wife's spirit has entered Mike's body - his first encounter with Mike where he offers him some butter cookies is one of the best scenes in the film. In the most thankless role, Marcus Thomas is a young man whose childhood was so brutal that the only happy Christmas he ever had was when family violence sent him to a hospital.
The various stories swirl together, some drifting into the realm of the supernatural and others into the more prosaically therapeutic. But Mr. Palminteri's direction is often choppy, giving no spin or shape to the complex structure. And his message is constantly hammered at us, that Christmas is the perfect time to reach out and touch someone - even if that someone isn't there.
The drama unfolds on an especially emotional and opportune cold winter's eve, and as we watch these people find the resolutions to their problems, the means with which they do this occasionally rings silly, but because the actors and the director seem to have so much faith and belief in there material, we're mostly able to accept the preposterous turns of events and roll with it.
The extras include interviews with the director and the cast, where Sarandon and Walker comment that the film is destined to become a holiday classic. Well, that's a bit of a stretch, but Noel does represent some of Cruz's and Walker's very best acting, with Walker's final encounter with Arkin taking a surprisingly poignant and heart rendering turn.
Just when we've suffered through another cloying cliché, we find ourselves deeply touched by Walker's beautifully realized character. And Sarandon is so vulnerable that when she is startled to find Robin Williams - or, rather, his mysterious character - sitting next to her mother's hospital room, she aptly conveys the tone of the movie - the miracles do happen, even if, in this movie, they're sometimes put to a pretty severe test. Mike Leonard November 05. "
Reflections (a year later) on "Noel"
Lee Hudson | San Diego, CA USA | 09/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those who prefer nutshell versions, here's a review of Noel for you: a good Christmas movie that will appeal to viewers that find themselves in the "middle zone" during the holiday season. By "middle zone" I'm referring to those that aren't fanatically overjoyed by Christmas to surreal heights, but also not loathing December 1 every year. The subject matter is "middle" as well...it's neither a fairy tale nor a depressing drama. It's a slice-of-life look into the lives of what probably represents a good 75% of the population at Christmas time.
The movie stars Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, and Penelope Cruz, and includes a supporting cast with some well-known names as well. It was a surprise to me to discover how large a role Robin Williams (uncredited) plays in this movie. I happened to stumble onto this movie because of three main factors: its composer, its marketing, and its technological introduction.
Alan Menken is my favorite composer, so long before the movie was released, I knew it was coming out. It was a surprise to me, then, when I visited my local theater last Thanksgiving to see "The Incredibles," and nested within the lid of my soda was a promotional CD containing a trailer and the title song for "Noel." Being curious, I visited the official website to find that it was also the first title being released on a new DVD format called "Flexpay," a new process whereby a DVD (once exposed to air) would become unplayable after approximately 48 hours. This alone peaked my curiosity and, along with the other two points of interest this movie generated, prompted me to order the Flexpay DVD from Amazon.com.
What I found was a movie I could relate to more closely than I would normally have anticipated. Being one who generally looks forward to the holiday season, I found myself quickly relating to Sarandon's character--a middle-aged executive type living alone AND (with the exception of visiting her mother in a hospice) spending the holidays alone. Her only true desire being to see Alzheimer's release the grip it has on her ailing mother for just one moment, she tends to miss some of the things around her many would label fortunate. "The hot guy at work" wants to date her, but she freezes up; yet, her genuine character shines through as she shows a little extra love to a patient across the hall from her mother--a patient she knows NOTHING about. Her story showcases a kind-hearted, sympathetic, and genuine woman you'd find more often than not at Christmas time.
Meanwhile, two separate (but eventually interconnected) strories are running in parallel: one of a man whose greatest Christmas party memory was when he spent Christmas as a child in the hospital. Finding that times have changed, his measures turn desperate as he tries to find some way to duplicate the experience and relive the childhood memory once more. Doing so uncovers a painful past and an answer to newly uncovered emotions.
The other story involves a typical dating couple (Cruz and Walker) with a seemingly picture-perfect holiday life and a storybook romance. This dreamland is threatened, however, by an overpowering jealousy Walker's character has for any male that comes in contact with his girlfriend. Already hanging on by a thread, the relationship takes an indefinite pause after Walker walks in on Cruz decorating a Christmas tree with a coworker (as a gift for Walker) and violently erupts in a fistful of anger. Along the way, Walker's character crosses path with a restaurant waiter (Alan Arkin) who believes Walker is his dead wife, reincarnated. Arkin's character becomes a realtime test for Walker as he learns the fine line of balancing jealousy, skepticism, and realization.
I enjoyed the movie for it's lighthearted presentation of what could be considered hefty subject matter. Because of this, the movie is not dragged down as a depressing melodrama; rather, it presents a look at how life is for most of us in some way or another. Nobody wants to be alone...we want to be understood...and we want to feel a part of something. Sometimes situations we might consider as enormous may seem trivial to others. Sometimes we don't realize how blessed we may be. "Noel" objectively presents all facets of life during the Christmas season, and leaves a couple of surprises for the viewer--all of this without leaving you with an in-your-face solution for how the holiday blues should be handled.
In my opinion, I was more excited about trying out Flexpay and hearing new music from Alan Menken--other than that, I didn't expect much. What I received, instead, was a rather enjoyable film that dared to present Christmas as a reality that some may be too hesitant to acknowledge...all of this while leaving the viewer with a warm, positive feeling instead of depression or cynicism. I found myself watching it more than once, and inviting others to watch the DVD as well (as long as the Flexpay system would allow the data to remain intact).
"Noel" may not be THE holiday movie for everyone, but it certainly is something new, entertaining, and unexpected. I recommend this movie to anyone looking for something different yet introspective during the holidays--especially those who, deep down inside, really DO believe that miracles can come true."
Christmas and a time for meting out miracles
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"NOEL is an unabashedly romantic little film, the type of movie Hollywood used to make for Christmas seasons before the toilet mouth Bad Santa, etc type became popular. Perhaps the time has returned for us to examine how the world can come together at this time of year, sort of a good omen that we just might all start taking care of each other again!
Chazz Palminteri takes on directing this story by David Hubbard, surrounds himself with a top notch crew of actors, and capably and sensitively brings off this little story of the interweaving of five lives on a Christmas Eve in New York City with all the tenderness and associated joy of placing old and loved garlands and bangles on a tree. It is a perfect film for re-discovering the meaning of Christmas.
Christmas Eve in Manhattan finds various characters who are in turmoil at this special time of the year. Successful book publisher Rose Harrison (Susan Sarandon) fights off depression by being kind to everyone: her lonely life is centered on spending her non-work hours tending to her mother who has advanced Alzheimer's Disease (she is divorced without children and without love). Across the hall from her mother's hospital room is a comatose man who never has visitors, and when Rose brings him an angel ornament for is window she meets Charlie (Robin Williams) who apparently has been visiting.
Elsewhere in the city is Jules (Marcus Thomas) who informs strangers that his only good Christmas memory as an unwanted and abused kid was one he spent in a hospital after a beating: he plans to have his hands broken so that he can spend the night in the hospital where he hopes to discover joy. And then there is police officer Mike (Paul Walker) engaged to gorgeous Nina (Penélope Cruz) whom he inadvertently drives away with his jealous behavior. Mike is observed by old Artie (Alan Arkin) who recognizes Mike as the reincarnation of his deceased wife and longs to establish a close relationship with his newfound love.
All of these disparate characters interact by coincidence: Rose mistakenly intrudes on Nina's family gathering only to end up in a cafe with Nina sharing her secret grief for which Rose offers empathy and lessons. Mike confronts the strange Artie who collapses and lands in the hospital where Mike senses his history and gently offers him empathy. Nina and Mike face a condition that alters their relationship, Rose discovers a secret about Charlie that allows her to learn about love and compassion and forgiveness, etc etc etc.
These are little miracles, the kinds of everyday occurrences that our speed of life ignores. If it takes a film of this nature to help us gain awareness of the importance of personal peace, companionship, forgiveness and love, then hats off to Hubbard and Palminteri - and to a wonderful cast of fine actors enjoying their craft. Highly Recommended for everyone with a strong sentimental streak! Grady Harp, October 05 "