The realm of American set adaptations of "A Christmas Carol" is a surprisingly dense one, with two new US versions being released in back-to-back years. As with the other adaptation "It's Christmas, Carol!" (to be reviewed later this December...) - this interpretation of the text has a female "Scrooge" in the lead, a habit which is true of almost every American adaptation, for some strange reason.
The main problem I have had with these female centred adaptations, such as "A Carol Christmas" and "A Diva's Christmas Carol" is that the films so very often are thinly veiled shots at businesswomen. The almost exclusively male writers of these movies seem to be predominantly expressing animosity towards their leads, not for being miserly or wicked but for daring to succeed in a male dominated world. Even "Ebbie's Story" - one of my favourites from last year, spent a fair amount of its brief running time having its protagonist bewail the fact that she had invested too much time in her business, rather than starting a family.
It was this experience that lead me to watch "All American Christmas Carol" with a sense of trepidation, but from the opening scenes, I was to be proven wrong.
This movies' "Scrooge" is Cindy, a trailer park living single mother on a low income job and with two children born of different fathers; the latter of these two fathers, Jake Marley, has recently been killed during an irresponsible round of paintball.
It is just before Christmas, that Jake returns in ghostly form and warns Cindy that she will be visited by three ghosts and... well, we all know the story from here.
One of the more appealing facets of this adaptation is that it does not require us to pity or to judge Cindy (who is played to perfection by Taryn Manning, last seen as the terrifying, religious zealot Pennsatucky in "Orange is the New Black.") In the hands of a different writer or director, Cindy would be an object of laughter, even disgust. However, here she is seen as a product of her world and of a few poor decisions that have left her overwhelmed by her very existence. It would have been so utterly against the spirit of the original to mock the poor, and this film handsomely manages to create sympathy and warmth for her plight, rather than sneering derision.
With the help of a school friend who died one Christmas, many years before, an ageing rockstar and the ghost of her deceased mother, Cindy is lead through her own history, to better understand why she is the way she is and how she can better her future and those of the ones around her.
Her final epiphany is not one of consumerist irresponsibility. I was fearful that the solution to her predicament was going to be that this penniless woman would have to spend, spend, spend to make Christmas better. Instead, a novel and touching approach is written, allowing her to use her talents and her ingenuity to brighten the lives of those around her.
This is a surprisingly well made and moving interpretation of "A Christmas Carol." It has moments of diamond-in-the-rough beauty and a savage sense of humour. I found myself absolutely enchanted.
As surprising and as festive as a kiss beneath the mistletoe.
"All American Christmas Carol." (2013) 5/5