Christmas-themed movies range from the origins of Santa Claus to families wanting that “perfect” get-together to lame romantic comedies. Often holiday films focus on people who have “lost” their Christmas spirit and need a proverbial slap in the face to get a different perspective. Christmas Eve, a new movie by writer and director Mitch Davis, doesn’t fit into any of those descriptions. It’s a comedy, but it’s not the funniest film you’ll ever see. It has some tender moments, but it won’t make you weep giant tears either. In short, “Christmas Eve” is about life.
Davis says that the inspiration for the film came after he moved from a big city “where the sheer quantity of people creates both anonymity and animosity” to a small town where “it is big enough to have stop signs and traffic lights, but small enough that you know just about everybody.” When living in the big city, one has no pressure to get to know anyone on a personal basis. So, what would happen if you put a group of strangers in an empty room and leave them there for a few hours?
Christmas Eve is about different groups of people, living in New York, who get stuck in different elevators due to a power outage the night before the biggest day of the year. It’s broken down like this:
A Scrooge McDuck type of tycoon (Patrick Stewart) gets stuck in a construction elevator. He is mad as hell at his predicament and wants to make whomever is responsible pay for their sins. People reach out to help him, but he just snaps back. Soon, he is faced with his own mortality. It’s hard to be important when you’re all by yourself.
In another part of town sits members of an orchestra waiting to get out of a freight elevator so they can perform. Each member of this rag tag group has their own quirks and they all get on each other’s nerves. Just don’t cross the trumpet player (Cheryl Hines) because she has a gun. The best scene here is when they decide to play a impromptu version “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Stuck in an apartment elevator is a shy paralegal (Juliana Guill) who tries hard to keep to herself but the photographer with boundary issues (James Roday) won’t let her.
Former Napoleon Dynamite star, Jon Heder, plays an employee who has just learned that he has been fired from his job though his former boss (Max Casella) insists that he has just been laid off as if that would make the situation better. Ever wonder what your employees think of you? This guy finds out.
And then there is doctor (Gary Cole) who believes in science over the divine who is trapped in a hospital elevator with his God-believing terminal patient, a nurse (Shawn King) who doesn’t share his views and two orderlies who are more trouble than they are worth.
The press material for the film says it best: “In a city of six million, you never know who you’ll get stuck with.”
Some have labeled this project as a faith-based film, but really, it is more of a social experiment than anything else. While anything can happen in the course of a few hours, these folks find a way to all get along. The film isn’t sweetened with saccharine, but it will restore your hope in humanity. You might even find yourself hoping that you can get stuck in an elevator with a stranger too. In fact, in a few cases, the storylines don’t wrap up like you would expect them to or hoped that they would. And that is just like real life.
Shooting a film where the characters stand around in isolated spaces could get old rather quick, but Davis keeps things moving with creative filming techniques, and a musical score (created by his son, Christian) that fits each situation nicely. The movie never lingers too long in one situation before moving to another one. And while each situation is its own story, they are all interconnected in some way, which is fun to figure out who belongs to who.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.