Recently paroled ex-con, Dennis (Paul Giamatti), is so desperate for work that he ends up forcing himself upon his friend, Rene (Paul Rudd). Actually, Rene isn't quite the friend that he once was, considering the fact that he plans to marry Therese (Amy Landecker), the former partner of Dennis. Dennis and Rene travel to New York to sell Christmas trees, and it doesn't take long for things to get tense between them. Dennis just can't seem to let go of the past, despite his insistence that he wants to, while Rene doesn't help the situation with his far-too-laidback manner and inability to think of the best ways to make the business profitable. But things start to look up when Olga (Sally Hawkins) comes along to buy a tree, and ends up befriending Dennis.
This is a strange, strange movie, mainly due to the setting. Dennis and Rene are two men who live in a French Canadian area, but that isn't something that factors into the movie enough to really warrant its inclusion. I'm not saying that you can't have people from French Canadian territories making a trip to New York to sell Christmas trees as the core of your movie, but it just seems a bit unnecessary, when the film feels, in all other respects, like a film that could have been made about characters from anywhere. Okay, they may be selling a better quality of tree (I guess, I'm no expert on tree types) and there are a few moments when language proves to be an extra obstacle/irritant, but that's it. I'll admit it, during the first 20 minutes or so, I assumed that this was a clumsy remake of a superior film.
Giamatti and Rudd both do well together, with the former being the best thing in the movie, using his standard hangdog expression to great effect. Landecker isn't onscreen for all that long, despite her character being most important in the tension that's created, but she does well enough. Hawkins is a lot of fun as Olga, playing the quirky female who enters the life of the lead character without it feeling just like every other quirky female role to have popped up in a lot of independent dramas in recent years.
Director Phil Morrison doesn't really do much at all, or so it seems. Of course, I might have been offering him some praise if he'd deliberately kept everything low-key and natural, deciding on that as the best way to deal with Melissa James Gibson's script, but that's not how everything is. It becomes clear, at times, that the movie is trying to blend a grittiness with that magical, Christmas-time feeling, but it doesn't work. The horrible, distracting, score by Graham Reynolds is just one of many mis-steps as the movie plods along from start to finish. To list all of the others would take too long. A LOT of the problems come from the script, but Morrison certainly doesn't do anything to help.
If it wasn't for Giamatti, Rudd and Hawkins then I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. Their performances make it tolerable, while everything else in the movie conspires to get viewers to give up long before the end.