Matt Moore, Brad Stine, Crystal Dewitt-Hinkle, Cole Brandenberger, Gabrielle Phillips
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
George A. Johnson
Breathe Motion Pictures
Deleted Scenes; Production Diary; Auditions Highlight Reel; Scene Index; Commentary w/George A. Johnson
Do you really realize what you have?
Based on a true story, the multiple Dove Award-winning film Homeless for the Holidays may very well be the perfect film for the family seeking to put "Christ" back into Christmas and to return to the heart and soul of a holiday season that all too often has become commercialized and idolized.
Written and directed by Indiana's own George A. Johnson, Homeless for the Holidays is a relentlessly good-hearted film centered around the life of Jack Baker (Matt Moore), an upwardly mobile marketing executive with a beautiful home, a beautiful wife and family, and a self-absorption borne largely out of a fear of losing it all.
When a marketing misprint leads to his corporate downfall, Jack watches everything in his life that he'd grown to put faith in suddenly fall away and he and his family may very well find themselves homeless by Christmas.
Sometimes, it's only when you lose everything that you truly realize what you really have.
Unabashedly sentimental and heartfelt, Homeless for the Holidays is destined to become a holiday tradition in faith-based homes with its relentlessly hopeful messages, affirmation of family, celebration of simplicity and simple lessons about giving and and the gifts that really matter.
While Homeless for the Holidays is without question a faith-based film, the film avoids the overt preachiness of many similar films as Johnson clearly trusts the film's values and transparent moral center to shine through.
Indeed, it does.
The story in Homeless for the Holidays is made all the more powerful due to its real-life connection to the experiences of Johnson, who found himself in similar circumstances in 2008 and facing incredibly challenging circumstances with his wife and four children. It was during this time of unemployment that Johnson expresses that God gave him the vision for Homeless for the Holidays and, providing for that vision, over 550 volunteers were assembled to help make the low-budget indie a reality.
Johnson touches, with a sense of light optimism, on the very stark realities that can face those who are under and unemployed as Jack is forced to take the only job he can find working at a local fast-food restaurant and one-by-one he and his family begin to lose all the tangible expressions that success had provided them including their utilities, a car and on and on.
An Indiana pastor with a background in theatre and film that includes appearances in the film Pearl Harbor and the television series Lost, Matt Moore embodies beautifully a man who had it all, lost it all and then realized he never really had it all. Moore's transformation from self-absorbed to self-sacrificing is unquestionably optimistic yet wonderfully brought to life. Moore exudes the kind of warmth that feels naturally developed, and his transformation in the film feels like we're watching a modern day It's a Wonderful Life.
Crystal Dewitt-Hinkle shines as Jack's devoted yet frustrated wife Sheryl, and the two performers display a comfortable, believable chemistry that helps sell their ability to cope, for the most part positively, with their increasingly stressful circumstances.
Rather miraculously, Homeless for the Holidays is also gifted with two delightful child performances by Cole Brandenberger and Gabrielle Phillips, as Jack and Sheryl's two children, Adam and Michelle. Both Brandenberger and Phillips give spirited and vulnerable performances, preserving in Adam and Michelle a growing realism surrounded by their ever present childlike optimism and sense of hope.
Popular Christian comic Brad Stine, as a rather psycho supermarket manager and Russ Bruzek in a dual appearance lead the strong supporting cast, with Michael Wilhelm, David Sisco, Lorraine Knox and Luke Bassett also leaving a lasting impression.
D.P. Tyler Black's camera work beautifully captures the northeastern Indiana towns where Homeless for the Holidays filmed, while Matthew Wayne Murray's original music companions the film quite nicely. While there are moments where the film's modest are evident, they are transcended by the film's positive energy, excellent lighting and solid performances.
There will undoubtedly be those troubled by the fervent optimism and lack of harsh "reality" in Homeless for the Holidays, but for the most part this approach fits the film perfectly and makes for a decidedly traditional and rewarding holiday viewing experience.
Homeless for the Holidays has just been released on home video and is available at Family Christian Stories, Lifeway Christian Stores, Bridgestone Multimedia Group and at Christianbook.com.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic