Hi-Life ★★★½

It's Christmas week in New York and perpetually out of work actor Jimmy (Eric Stoltz) owes Fatty (Charles Durning) 900 bucks. If he doesn't pay up that night, Fatty is going to give him a beating. Meanwhile across town at the Hi-Life Bar and Grill, Jimmy's girlfriend Susan (Moira Kelly) has some very big and very bad news for her brother, the barman Ray (Campbell Scott) - Jimmy's got her pregnant and she needs money for an abortion. Determined to help raise the funds, Ray goes out to call on old debts from fellow bartenders with the help of self confessed drunk April (Katrin Cartlidge) just as Jimmy is pounding the streets with Fatty's confidant, Minor (Peter Reigert). Ultimately all roads led to Maggie (Darryl Hannah), Jimmy's sister and the girl who broke Ray's heart, and the real truth of this chaotic evening comes to light.

Well this is quite an overlooked little gem, another of those Christmas films that don't go overboard on the Christmas schmaltz. This story of New York barflies acknowledges the season but knows that beneath the baubles and bright colours, the everyday life of New York goes on. It helps too that the colourful characters are played by such a strong cast. Everyone is on form and embodies their roles really well, but of particular interest to me was the opportunity to see the late and much missed Katrin Cartlidge in a rare light comic movie from across the pond. She's good fun as April, the snarky wisecracking Englishwoman in New York, who surprisingly turns out to be the film's romantic leading lady when she reveals her feelings for Ray. It's always a bittersweet experience watching Cartlidge and refelcting on how quickly we were robbed of her talents, but I'd really liked to have seen her perform in more stuff like this as well as the Mike Leigh, Dogme, and the art house stuff.

Only 40 people have logged this here on LB. This charming, funny movie needs a bigger appreciative audience than that. Be warned though, one of the vintage clips over the opening titles sees a little puppy hanging from a stocking above the fireplace!