Almost Christmas Review: The Best Christmas Film in Almost a Decade.
Written and directed by David E. Talbert, Almost Christmas tells the story of the Meyers family coming together to celebrate their first Christmas since the death of their mother. While Walter (Danny Glover) is excited to have all his children home for the holidays, he is unaware of their personal struggles. Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), the oldest daughter, is pretending that her life is perfect when in reality, her marriage to Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) is one affair away from being over. The youngest daughter Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is trying to get through law school while dealing with a recent divorce and struggling to get by. Christian, the oldest son, is happily married with two great kids but is beyond obsessed with his political campaign. Evan (Jessie T. Usher), the youngest son, is in college and is currently fighting an addiction to painkillers. Needless to say, the five days leading up to Christmas are filled with a lot more than just yuletide cheer.
Christmas films are a dime a dozen. Almost every year, there is at least one film released theatrically while many others show up on cable networks or streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. It has become increasingly rare to see a film about a family at Christmas that resonates with an audience. With that being said, Almost Christmas was a huge surprise. It is hands down, the best Christmas film to be released by a major studio in over a decade.
Filled with heart, laughs, and great characters, Almost Christmas embraces everything that audiences love about Christmas films. The script has the perfect combination of comedy and drama while mixing in plenty of family dysfunction and genuine heartfelt moments. Talbert has created a memorable Christmas dramedy that we haven’t seen since the late 80s/early 90s. His casting is spot on with a story that can be appreciated by those of all ages.
While the cast as a whole is all around great, I did think that Gabrielle Union, Danny Glover, and Mo’Nique shined the brightest. Glover’s Walter is trying to survive Christmas without his loving wife by his side. His struggle with getting over his wife’s death is one that can resonate with anyone. I think that anyone watching will more than likely think about their own mother and father or their grandparents at some point during the film. Union’s role as Rachel is multilayered because she is trying to be a strong independent female but is struggling not to ask for help. She has a great daughter that loves and respects her but wants to see her mother happy. Rachel is shown as thickheaded, but that comes with good reason. She has recently gone through a divorce and is trying to keep it all together while her older sister criticizes her. Mo’Nique’s Aunt May is the film’s comedic relief and delivers plenty of laughs. Aunt May has several great moments and the best dialogue in the entire film.
For every great comedic moment, there seems to be one with heart and emotion. The scene where the family starts dancing in the kitchen to various songs was great as is the scene near the film’s ending where Aunt May and Walter share a piece of sweet potato pie. I loved that Talbert was able to create real characters dealing real issues. Each character has their personal struggle which adds the right amount of depth. Themes of loss, financial struggles, parenting, and divorce all play a vital role in Talbert’s character-driven story. It is so rare to see a film like this nowadays because Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make a great Christmas film. Most Christmas films feel like cash grabs, but nothing about Almost Christmas feels that way. Instead, the film feels like an actual movie with a real story, real moments, and real people taking place around the Christmas holiday.
My only minor complaint about the film is that there were a lot of storylines going on at once and not all of them were explored as deeply as others. Rachel, Walter, and Lonnie got a lot of screen time and backstory while Evan, Aunt May, and Christian were more overlooked. I think out of everyone; Cheryl was the character that lacked the most depth. She obviously was the person who was trying to hide her relationship woes but it honestly just came off as combative for most of the film with very little insight as to why. When the Christmas dinner scene occurs (which also happens to be one of the film’s funniest moments), Cheryl shines but leading up this point she just seemed angry and unlikeable due to lack of character development. It should also be mentioned that J.B. Smoove’s performance as Lonnie might become a bit too over the top for certain viewers. While his character did have a lot of funny moments, I felt I would have rather seen more screen time dedicated to Evan or Cheryl rather than him.
Heartfelt and hilarious, Almost Christmas is one of the best Christmas themed films to come out of Hollywood in years. It will pull on the emotional heartstrings while providing plenty of hearty holiday laughs. It has something for everyone and will hopefully become a new Christmas classic for many generations to come. The smart script paired with this talented cast makes the film an instant holiday classic. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Talbert as I feel as though he has grown so much as a writer and filmmaker. I cannot wait to watch and support him as his career continues to grow.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Almost Christmas is a highly recommended 8 out of 10.