‘White Reindeer’ is a particularly dark anti-Christmas comedy

Anna tk spends Christmas grieving unimaginable loss in "White Reindeer." Credit: IFC Films
Anna Margaret Hollyman spends Christmas grieving unimaginable loss in “White Reindeer.”
Credit: IFC Films

‘White Reindeer’
Director: Zach Clark
Stars: Anna Margaret Hollyman, Laura Lemar-Goldsborough
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

With the toxic pomp and pep it engenders, the holidays essentially ask for films (and songs, and books, and people) that try to destroy, or at least alleviate, its power. “White Reindeer” goes father than most. Its hero, Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman), is a Christmas fanatic who can’t help but turn on holiday music soon as Thanksgiving ends. (Some people may consider that a bit late.) Returning home one night she finds her suburban house ransacked and her husband dead on the floor with a massive head wound.

“White Reindeer” walks a very, very fine line. It’s technically a black comedy, but it’s also an empathetic drama that takes its protagonist’s subsequent mental breakdown with bewildering seriousness. Suzanne may be overly festive, but she’s no freak. Even in the early, happy stretch, Hollyman plays her as relatively low-key; she’s not a joy monster, just a bit sheltered. Shocked into a zombie state, she no longer takes comfort from kitschy holiday e-cards, which play, piercingly, over shots of her staring dead-eyed and motionless.

What transpires is reminiscent of Bill Forsyth’s terrific anti-Christmas classic “Comfort and Joy,” in which a Glasgow DJ who spends the holiday in a funk after being whimsically dumped, then tries to distract himself by getting involved in an absurdly overheated war between rival ice cream trucks. In “White Reindeer,” Suzanne simply has access to her late husband’s internet browsing history. She discovers he had a thing for strip bars. Rather than angrily confront his favorite dancer (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough) — stage name: Autumn; real name: Fantasia — she’s open about her motives and winds up befriending her. Soon the two are doing coke at clubs.

What she wants is still self-serving and questionable: She desires access outside her white middle class existence, and Fantasia is the key. “White Reindeer” is aware of this, and it makes Fantasia a full-bodied human, with a daughter and bills to pay and a sense of autonomy. Lemar-Goldsborough plays her as intelligent and soft-spoken, and writer/director Zach Clark gives her and Hollyman gentle, calm scenes where the comedy drops and serious, thoughtful discussions take over.

Occasionally the film trips. Suzanne’s attempts to infiltrate a world of suburban swingers turns judgmental and broad in a way her journeys into the stripper-verse (mostly) do not. It’s a film trying to delve into the non-dramatic areas of inconsolable pain. And like many before it, it’s not quite sure how to end.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.