Made for TV: "The Wool Cap"
Brace yourself. We are now entering the season of feel-good TV movies in which angelic choirs, colored lights, and lightly falling snow possess a miraculous healing power over even the worst family traumas. Most directors of holiday movies have never seen an estrangement, betrayal, embitterment, or deep psychic would that does not instantly dissolve when two family members say "I love you" and give each other a big bear hug.
I won't kid you - there's just such a moment in "The Wool Cap," a made-for-TV movie airing this Sunday, November 21 on TNT. But "The Wool Cap" is worth watching all the same, because while it is definitely full of cliches, it manages to suffuse them with rare honesty and humor.
The secret ingredient is William H. Macy, an actor who was never a favorite of mine until last year, when he and Steven Schachter made "Door to Door," an Emmy-winning film about a traveling salesman with cerebral palsy. Now they have collaborated on a new, equally affecting character: Gigot, gloomy alcoholic who works as a janitor in a dilapidated New York tenement.
Gigot cannot speak because of a neck injury sustained in a long-ago car accident, but thanks to Macy's terrific wordless acting, Gigot's feelings are crystal clear as gradually, through no wish of his own, he becomes the sole responsible adult in the life of Lou, a young African-American girl abandoned by her crack addict mother.
Maybe "The Wool Cap" works because the Christmas-Bear-Hug scene is not the main event but rather a step in the process by which Gigot learns to be a father (by reconciling with his own father). Or maybe it succeeds because of Keke Palmer, the gifted young actress who brings Lou to vivid, unstereotypical life. Or Don Rickles, pulling off a lovely understated star turn as one of Gigot's tenants. Or the pet monkey who steals every other scene. Whatever the reason, "The Wool Cap" is a keeper. Take it from someone who actually likes eggnog and fruitcake - but only when made with the finest ingredients.