Review: Noëlle (2007) For Spiritual Grown-ups

Poster for David Wall’s Noëlle (2007)

Disney’s Christmas movie “Noelle” released in November 2019 will almost certainly bring in more money than David Wall’s Noëlle (2007) also known by its working title, “Mrs. Worthington’s party.” Not every Christmas movie is for everyone and David Wall’s screenwriting, directing and Robert Redford look-a-like acting doesn’t fit neatly into the the mold of a typical Hollywood Christmas movie, it’s not silly, sappy or sardonic.

A Christian distribution company gave Noëlle (2007) a limited U.S. release but it also doesn’t fit neatly into mold of a Christian Christmas movie — in fact some Christian reviewers gave it strong negative reviews. At some point Sony pictures began distributing it overseas and it finally showed here on Irish cable a few weeks ago.

We watched it tonight and were pleasantly surprised. There are elements of “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and even a faint echo of “The Great Gatsby”

It will be interesting to see whether its will be one of those films which takes off once it gets beyond a hyper-polarized audience expecting a portrayal of human life and choices as more shallow and simple than what we know to be true.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) did not do well at the box. Its anti-Mammon message was taken as pro-Communist by Joe McCarthy and the house unAmerican activities committee. And coming off the end of WWII, few wanted to see a movie about a guy who tries to commit suicide. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the movie became a Christmas classic and the actress who played ZuZu didn’t see herself in the film until she was grown-up.

Some of the negative reviews of Noëlle (2007) come from doubtful evangelicals itching to find anti-Christian messages and wars on Christmas everywhere — even where they don’t exist. The Christian messages in David Wall’s screenplay are too subtle for spiritual snowflakes or anyone who believes Christianity can be boiled down to a few tweets, memes and well-presented televangelist sermons.

Other criticisms come from those expecting Hallmark. On the surface this film may resemble a Hallmark production, but the cinematography, sense of place, subtle humor and story eventually leave Hallmark behind. Where Hallmark gives simplicity and polish, here we have a cast of family and friends working together out of community and love to tell a story that all of us should hear. This story about human lives that has grown even more relevant in these hyper-polarized times.

It’s complicated.

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