Christmas at Maxwell's - a new Christmas Classic DVD Movie

Another Christmas Classic
A film review

By Peggy Moen, Associate Editor/ Film Critic THE WANDERER

11.29.07 WORD COUNT: 573

If you have time after going to see Bella in the theaters and watching It's a Wonderful Life at home, you might also want to see Christmas at Maxwell's, now available on DVD.

Christmas at Maxwell's (2006) is often compared to It's a Wonderful Life, as they both show men saved from despair at Christmastime, with the aid of divine intervention. Both movies feature children of the protagonists struggling to make sense of their families' unhappiness. Also, Clarence the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, answers to Joseph in Heaven, and Christmas at Maxwell's has an angelic character with a name reminiscent of St. Joseph.

The two films differ, however, in that Andrew Austin (Andrew May), the main character in Christmas at Maxwell's, is dealing with a guilty family secret along with his wife's life-threatening cancer. The evil in It's a Wonderful Life stems mainly from Potter (Lionel Barrymore), the cold and greedy rich man of Bedford Falls. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), though on the brink of suicide, is largely a victim of his own generosity and of the machinations of Potter.

Austin, who married his wife Suzie (Jack Hourigan) when she was pregnant with another man's child, shares in the guilt of the outcome of that difficult situation. Also, Bailey faces imminent financial ruin; Austin is a successful Cleveland wine merchant. (While "wine merchant" suggests money and success, it also has some underlying scriptural connotations.)

Bella and Christmas at Maxwell's can also be compared and contrasted. Both brought a pro life message to the big screen, but in contrast to Bella, in Christmas at Maxwell's evil is committed, not prevented. Its message is forgiveness and God's unconditional love, as enunciated by the priest in the film, played by William Laufer, the film's writer/director.

The priest also talks to Andrew about the inevitability of loss when Andrew comes to talk to him about his pain at his wife's serious illness.

The film, along with its happy ending, still confronts the reality of suffering. Early in the film, Andrew happens across a town cop who some years earlier lost his wife and daughter in a car accident.

The officer tells Andrew "it's a mystery" why something like that could happen. He and his wife had tried for years to have a child, and now, he says "they're both gone."

About Suzie's illness, the officer says to Andrew, "It's all about faith."

While the family is preparing to head to Maxwell's, their summer home, for Christmas, Andrew gets a somewhat garbled cell-phone call from one physician saying that Suzie's recent tests are encouraging. He shares the news with her. But then, the family doctor tells Andrew he misunderstood; Suzie has gotten worse, not better, and is not responding to any treatment.

The movie widens and deepens as it flows toward it miraculous ending, reaching back to earlier scenes of courtship and conflict. it's a miraculous ending with some surprising turns of its own.

You might enjoy adding Christmas at Maxwell's to your collection of Christmas classic films. It is rated PG, and is not a movie for young children.

LauferFilm.com was founded in 1996. It is run by father-daughter filmmakers William and Tiffany Laufer. Additional information on Christmas at Maxwell's is available at: www.christmasatmaxwells.com. You can order the film at that web site, or call 888-527-2388.

The Wanderer is a national Catholic weekly journal of news, commentary, and analysis, has been publishing continually since 1867.

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