Plot: What’s it about?
The holiday season is supposed to be a cheerful time, with bright decorations, an attitude of giving, and a generally upbeat spirit. A lot of folks live for the Christmas atmosphere, putting up lights, picking out the perfect tree, and selecting ideal gifts for those they love. But not everyone is so cheerful, some battle depression and loneliness. These problems are only compounded during the holidays, as that is the time when people come together and celebrate. One such person is Rose (Susan Sarandon), a middle aged woman who has been coping with her mother’s Alzheimer’s. She longs to be loved and accepted, but she feels alone in the world and one point, even considers suicide. On Christmas Eve, she is talked away from the banks of an icy river, by another wayward soul. At the same time, Nina (Penelope Cruz) and Mike (Paul Walker) should be basking in their love and affection for each other, but instead fight over jealousy. These and others in New York City face a cold, lonely Christmas, but will any of them find some kind of solace?
I’d never heard of Noel, but the cast looked impressive and this is the perfect season for such a film, so I gave this disc a spin. After all, worst case scenario is that I watch the ultra hot Penelope Cruz for a hundred minutes, right? The film is yet another in a long line of movies that tries to weave multiple storylines into one, with little crossovers from time to time. In other words, there is a lot going on at all times, so if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, better pay close attention. The stories themselves are rather simple, just tales of depression with different circumstances. But I have to admit, some instances where the stories cross do provide some nice moments, though too few. In the end, Noel was just too basic in terms of emotion, I don’t like manipulative melodrama and that is what Noel is. But if you want to check out the flick for yourself, I think a rental is advisable, though rent it in the proper season, of course.
Video: How does it look?
Noel is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a more than decent visual effort, but some consistent flaws lessen the experience and by turn, force me to lower the score. This one made the move from theaters to home video in a pretty short timeframe, but even so, the print looks worn in places, which is a let down. The flaws aren’t massive, but nicks, marks, and debris can be seen, which combine to sometimes be a minor distraction. The colors, flesh tones, and contrast are in fine form however, so not all is lost with this one. I doubt anyone will be too impressed here, but in the end, this is a solid, but flawed transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t let down at all by the included soundtrack, which handled the material’s audio needs very well. This is a dialogue driven movie and it has the usual genre audio, a simple soundtrack that uses some range and the rest is dialogue based. The music blends with the movie very well and sounds good here, while the dialogue shows no problems either, no real complaints. Not the kind of soundtrack to show off your system with, but the material sounds great, so no complaints.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary with director Chazz Palminteri is the main draw, as he covers the shift from actor to being behind the camera. He is able to offer great insight from both actor and director perspectives, which adds a lot to his session. This disc also includes some biographies for prominent cast members, as well as a brief look behind the scenes.