December 5, 2011

Eyes on Christmas: R-Xmas

It is hard to believe it is December already. In any case, I decided to do a marathon in conjunction with the oncoming holiday, much like I did with Halloween in October. I have a nice lineup of Christmas movies lined up, although I will say that some of them are not directly Christmas movies, some of them are just set around the holiday through chance or just a backdrop. For example, the first movie I have chosen is not really a Christmas, although it could be seen as a commentary on consumerism.

So, I sat down and took a look at the titles I have compiled and looked for one to be the first. The winner is none other than R-Xmas. Prior to looking for christmas titles on Netflix I had never heard of this. It turns out that it is a pretty interesting film, not great by any standard and one I am unlikely to want to revisit, but one I am lad to have watched.

The movie was co-written and directed by Abel Ferrara. He is a Brooklyn native who has been a rather prolific filmmaker over his career. He has made some really good films like King of New York and Bad Lieutenant, not to mention some odd ones like The Addiction. While I am not exactly a follower of his career, it seems that he has not really made a movie of any import for a while. This one was made back in 2001 and despite playing some tfestivals, was unceremoniously dumped to home video where very few people actually seem to have heard of it.

Set in the days leading up to Christmas the story centers on a Latino family who balance a nicely upscale and social life and their smack dealing business. With this time frame and business choice, Ferrara takes a look at the similarities of commercialism and drug addiction. As Husband (Lillo Brancato, who remains unnamed) attempts to purchase the latest hot toy for his daughter, he witnesses two women fighting tooth and nail over the last one. Could these customers of merchandise be any different than those looking to score their next hit of his stuff?

Ferrara focuses on the minutiae of their lives. This is not sensational filmmaking, it is much more matter of fact look at what they do on a day to day basis. We see the stress of finding the right Christmas gift, the lengths they go to keep up social appearances and how they keep their illegal business separate. We watch them bagging the drugs and stamping them with the brand logo.

Things change up about halfway through when Wife (Drea de Matteo) is finishing picking up a couple of those special dolls for her daughter when she is approached by a man with her husband's wallet. He is behind  kidnapping Husband, so he is known as Kidnapper (Ice-T). Now it is up to Wife to get him back.

It is a slow, deliberate movie whose only focus is just the characters, and even they are of questionable interest. It is interesting t pick out the commercialism/drug comparison, but at the same time I never felt like taking all that much time to try and figure it out.

The best part of this movie is Drea de Matteo. She is the linchpin of the film and does a rather convincing job. She is strong, intelligent and unsure of what the next step is and even if this thing is the real deal.

My recommendation would be to give it a shot, ponder it, and never watch it again. It is not bad, but it is not a traditional Christmas movie and it is not one to lift the holiday spirits.

Mildly Recommended.

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