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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2023 11:56 pm 
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COMFORT CLINTON AND RAYE LEVINE IN MERRY GOOD ENOUGH

Holiday dysfunction with a happy end

Christmas is in three days. Lucy Raulie (Raye Levine),leaves Boston and goes to her home town (apparently Lynn, Mass.) to join her siblings, Tim (Daniel Desmarais), all the way from Singapore, and Cynthia (Comfort Clinton), who has a very good job and a boyfriend named Andrew, to be with their mom, Carol (Susan Gallagher). But around midnight, Lucy has a fight with her mom about a wedding album. She's divorced, she doesn't want to remember the wedding. Her mom does. Next morning, when Tim and Cynthia arrive, mom has disappeared. Lucy looks, or calls, everywhere. They go to the local police station, where Kate (Sophie von Haselberg), the local cop, is an ex-girlfriend of Tim's, but no luck. Unbeknownst to her, their father George (Joel Murray), divorced decades ago, shows up, full of holiday cheer. Still no luck. Frank (Kevin O. Peterson), the sibling's former gym teacher, turns up looking for Carol too. Frank and Carol seem to have very good friends with occasional benefits.

George, Lucy, Tim, and Cynhia wind up, at George's instigation, trying to have fun on Christmas Eve at the house. They invite in their neighbor Sam (Sawyer Spielberg), who has a bond with Lucy, from across the street. They all have a nice ham dinner, they drink champagne and other things, they play parlor games. Meanwhile Carol appears to us, drinking in a dive bar, hanging out with a lonely dude with no family (Neil Casey). (There's two kinds of holiday cheer for you.) Later, Mr.s Baker (Margaret Curry), a lady the siblings don't think is a friend, shows up and Tim threatens her with a BB gun, and as a result gets taken to the police station, under the care of Officer Kate.

The screenplay, which has some spot-on dialogue and a lot of little serio-comical incidents, understatedly captures both the awkwardness of a family reunion at Christmas and specific nuances of speech and oddities of family interaction very well. Certainly this is a "dysfunctional" family, but one like many others. Feeling uncomfortable emotions heightened at Christmastime is a common experience for many Americans. It's a time when feelings are often more sensitive. There is a longing for happiness, and it sometimes momentarily arrives, as do moments of humor and surprise. Sometimes we feel more unhappy than usual simply because we're supposed to be happy. But when it. comes at film's end, it's a thing much longed for.

Filmmaker Caroline Keene says of the movie, "It's definitely not like a traditional Hallmark movie, it's really more of a family comedy set (during) the holidays." In an interview Keene remarked: "Someone said they put the fun in dysfunctional[;] I felt like I wanted the fact that even though there is so much dysfunction, there's definitely still love to be a part of the movie."

The movie is liberally laced with song interludes, some of the singalong-in-the-car variety. The cameraperson has an annoying habit of swinging fast back and forth between speakers sometimes. The cast and crew are having fun. The filmmakers have made the actors at home here and Merry Good Enough at its most successful moments captures the momentary anguish and ecstasy of American family Christmases, bottles them, you might say. Mere cameo moments shine. This is a good little artisanal holiday movie to watch at home during the holidays.

AMerry Good Enough, 96 mins., debuted Oct 12, 2023 at New Hampshire Film Festival, opened Nov. 11. It becomes available Dec. 19 on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube Movies, Cable and Satellite On Demand.

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