Winter Solstice Josh Sternfeld

I'm an Anthony LaPaglia fan, so I wanted to love Winter Solstice. I wanted to write a one sentence review: "It was a fantastic film." But that would have been a lie. The truth is, Winter Solstice is a mess.

The characters do inappropriate things: Jim Winters (LaPaglia) is stood up by his sons, and as a result, ends up on an awkward first date. So he throws their beds on the front lawn. I can only guess that sleeping outside is their punishment. Odd, considering it wasn't set up earlier in the film. But I suppose a more forgiving reviewer would let that one go.

Then there's the issue of missing information. At one point in the narrative, Jim and Molly (Jim's new neighbour, played by Allison Janney), sit in his truck at a local Dairy Queen. Just after she gets in, he gives her some sort of long, meaningful look. She then reveals that she was engaged once but has never been married. How could she possibly know what he was thinking? I apologise if my morning latte neglected to kick in and I missed something, but it was such a jarring jump in logic, it was hard to take the rest of the film seriously.

Then there's the soundtrack, which consisted of a lone acoustic guitar. As soon as I heard the first note, I knew I was in trouble. It was so earnest it bordered on condescending. It said, "Something heartfelt is about to happen." It said, "Be sad and contemplate the woes of these broken people." I know the score's supposed to carry the emotional subtext of the film, but even a gin-soaked Art Garfunkel on Valium would have rolled his eyes.

The actors try though: Janney is a welcome presence when she enters the story and her chemistry with LaPaglia is great. But there's only so much you can do when you're trapped in a sloppy film. And Winter Solstice really is a sloppy film. (Paramount Classics)