Among the burdens of the festive season—religious discord, familial tensions, financial strain—holiday movies may be added to the critic’s list. Noel, the debut feature by actor Chazz Palminteri, belongs to a genre that reached its apotheosis in Frank Capra—the Christmas Eve–as-personal-disaster movie. Susan Sarandon stars as Rose, a solitary book editor planning to spend the holiday in the hospital with her mother, who’s in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. This cheery prospect is interrupted by chance encounters with beautiful Nina (Penélope Cruz), whose engagement to Mike (Paul Walker), a jealous police officer, is on the rocks, and with the mysterious Charlie (Robin Williams), who haunts the hospital room next door. Woven into their tales are Alan Arkin as a spooky coffee shop waiter and Marcus Thomas as a troubled youth with a sinister Christmas wish. A lot of talent signed on for this small movie—what did they see in it? Most of the redemptive notes ring false, as does the mythical Manhattan, where the snow is just too clean and everybody lives around the corner.