It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Justice: A Review of 'The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas'

 

Charlie ChristmasArrested Development. It's not just the name of a TV show involving people saying, "I've made a huge mistake," or a '90s hip-hop band that sang about a man named Mr. Wendel who was apparently from Tennessee. It's actually the name of a condition where someone becomes psychologically and/or emotionally stunted. I'm not sure which came first, but I know that the latter applies to the main character in the film The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas.


Traumatic experience affect people in a myriad of ways. From a shrug of the shoulders to complete catatonia, going through something traumatic isn't necessarily defined by the experience, but rather the person that goes through it. Loss of someone important, especially at a young age, can make a profound impact on a person's life, let alone the loss of two people in a short amount of time. Thus begins the story of young Charlie Christmas. Throwing rocks into a creek atop a train track, while a superhero, cape and all, looks on behind him, and that look bares a striking resemblance to the one his deceased father once wore. Trying to emulate that role of power and protection is admirable, unfortunately, donning a mask, cape, and a pair of tighty whities doesn't mesh well when worn in a school bathroom and the bullies walk in. Repressing those thoughts and feelings is sometimes the only way to go if you want to get by in a world of slap bracelets and Indian burns. At least it'll be better when your a grown up. Won't it?

Not always. Charlie Christmas (played by Kenny Pitts) seems to have matured like a flower deprived of water and sunlight. He's there, but wilted and surrounded by weeds. Taking the path of least resistance, he forgoes the challenges that would provide a higher station and becomes the janitor of the school in which he once was tormented. And, still is. Reduced to sub-level status by the men who once bullied him as children, he's forced not only to endure his own torment, but to endure watching teens get bullied and not having the backbone to say something. Luckily, inspiration is on its way. Intrigue stirs in Charlie about a teacher at the school named Gracie, one he just happens to live next door to. Gracie (Julia Curry) carries a beguiling smile on her face, but behind closed doors it's shown that her smile is merely a public mask worn to hide the shame and confusion of having an abusive lover.

As fate would have it, Charlie has a very caring brother and sister-in-law. Ever trying to coax him from his shell, he's informed that he will be attending a church mixer. Sadly, that mixer must have been catered by Bob Evans, because with only one woman there, it was a real sausage party. Choosing to take the plunge, Charlie is convinced that he would find inspiration from being baptized by the preacher/mixer coordinator in the community center pool. Hallelujah, I think we got us a change of perspective!

Thus, the birth of the Vigilante. Coached by visions of Jesus, Charlie begins a training regimen to get his body and skills whipped into shape, preparing to take down the worst kind of scum there is. Bullies. Of course, "bully" isn't a term resigned to someone picking on another to make themselves feel better, but also people that develop into fully functional thieves, murderers, and rapists. Charlie keeps a vigilant eye out for them. Creating a costume to strike fear into the hearts of those who would harm others and learning the best ways to catch and defeat them, Charlie soon becomes a controversial fixture in the lives of the residents of Shawnee, OK. This is were the film really kicks in. Akin to other vigilante films like The Boondock Saints or Death Wish, we find men taking the law into their own hands. What we don't find is a man with police training or divine luck when it comes to handling weapons. The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas has an origin story in the truest sense. Charlie is a regular man who doesn't have a vendetta or greatness thrust upon him; he's a man that wants things better for others than he's had for himself. Charlie has to take the time and energy to workout (much of it done with the help of a "Chuck Morris" video), put together a costume, learn how to use weapons, defend himself, know where to find trouble and learn every in, out, up, down, nook, and cranny of every street and alley in town. I'm exhausted from just typing that, so one can only imagine the time and energy it must take to do it all. This movie shows you how it's done from the ground up without the help of being a billionaire playboy or given a magical amulet.

Another point this film brings up is the situation of Gracie being the battered housewife who refuses help or worse, still defends her attacker. A sorry case of Stockholm Syndrome, Gracie defends her abuser and denies there is a problem. Thankfully, it doesn't end in a "my hero" scenario, which I believe is a played out cliche, Charlie wishes to intervene, and at one point he tries to, but it's only through her own will and courage that she can truly be free.

Julia Curry and Kenny Pitts (who also produced) give wonderful performances, each tapping into the pain and reality of the characters' situations. Pitts showed a real transition in his character while remaining the same person. Charlie didn't just go through a training montage and growled when he talked, thus making him a superhero. Much of the kudos goes to writer/director Adam Hampton. Written over six years and shot over four with a shoestring budget, Hampton got everything he needed and probably more out of his limited resources. Like indie directors before him, stealing shots and "borrowing" locations, Hampton put together a piece that doesn't look rushed or under funded. According to the film's website (www.CharlieChristmas.com), the community really helped put it all together by donating locations, funds, and goods to the production of the film. The actors were not paid. It became a labor of love and the love is being repaid, having already been nominated and won multiple awards including being a Silver Screen Award Winner at the 2012 Nevada International Film Festival, and The Unusual (Calling of) Charlie Christmas won Best Drama at Bare Bones Film Festival. If you find this movie heading your way, be sure to check it out and see what all the fuss is about.

You can thank me later.

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 24 December 2018 19:41

Go to top