An R rated comedy about a
dysfunctional family trying to survive Christmas dinner and each other in the most Christmassy town in America, Bethlehem PA.
Written By: Michael Malone,
Directed By: Michael Malone
Back and forth seems to be the way of things lately as the indie film scene keeps getting better and better. Sure, you still have loads of independent films that hold true to the cliché of what an indie production looks like; yet somewhere along the way a lot of excellent indie flicks are finally sneaking into system. The problem is when indie productions start becoming increasingly awesome, the bar is raised for everyone else and everyone else... is expected to produce quality and not something shot on a camcorder or iPhone. With that written, "Bethlehem" was really hard for me. One one hand it's a fine indie production. On the other hand, with a few changes it could have been awesome. The pieces were all on the table, some were just put into the wrong place. Michael Malone and Joshua Hull have written a Christmas story that truly does have roots in similar films from yesteryear. We've all seen this story and type before, and it's really not all that original. "Bethlehem" does however, feature some real laughs and aspects that allow many of us to relate to the crazy characters within. How are your Christmas gatherings ladies and gents? How "normal" is your family? "Bethlehem" takes the crazy family stereotype and simply compiles the issues of several families into one. The result, as I said can be hilarious... and it is. For sitting back hoping for a few chuckles you really can't go wrong here. I ended up scoring this film with my "casual viewer" hat on and as you can tell things turned out fine; but sooner or later we need to begin discussing the technicalities of the movie, which we'll do now.
The cinematography for the most part is really nice, especially for an indie film. Everything you'd expect from a studio production is present. The problem is that camera work alone does not a movie make. I personally found a lot of the editing itself withdrew me from the film. I'm not saying it was a bad job. Actually, "Bethlehem" was edited together rather well for the most part, bringing me back to the "raised bar for indie productions" I wrote about above. In my humble opinion, it just could have been done a little better. Or maybe it's more accurate for me to write different. Easily over a dozen times I was ripped out of the movie by an edit that simply showed itself. Let me explain: An editor is the unsung hero of movie making. If you don't see their work, the job is done right. Many times during the movie, the edit was completely visible, reminding me I was watching a film and slightly taking away from the overall production. Another aspect that kept popping up was the dialog edits. Numerous cuts could have been faster and neater. To explain let me put it like this. Real conversations do not consist of 1's and 2's. When talking with someone, a lot of the times you overlap each other when speaking. Nobody waits for a full sentence to finish before they reply... all the time. Because this is the case here, some of the acting came across as hollow and scripted. As I wrote however, that's only because the edit allowed it. If more care had been put into making the conversations flow more naturally, in the editing stage of post production, "Bethlehem" could have easily scored a five. Everything was here! The acting by nearly everyone was top-notch, the image and sound were all present... there just wasn't enough spit and polish. That slight lack of post work really hindered an otherwise excellent film. After reading all of the above ladies and gents, keep one thing in mind: I'm nit-picking at the technicalities here. Most viewers won't even notice any of what I've just written above.
When it's all said and done this is still an excellent film. I laughed numerous times and "Bethlehem" is a film I would buy and place on my movie shelf. The name of the game is to entertain and inspire a laugh or two, and "Bethlehem" delivers just that. This film starts funny and continues straight to the end. I also appreciated that the ending isn't all that sappy crap we've come to expect from these types of films, rather a more realistic conclusion to an F*d up situation. Michael Malone and his cast and crew have done a stellar job with a cliché premise. One that I can almost guarantee will find it's way onto your screen for much more than one showing.
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