'The Wool Cap' is a remake of 'Gigot' that you can curl up with on the couch
Oh ye of little faith in William H. Macy (me, in this case). Not only does his turn as the self-sufficient mute Gigot in TNT's remake of the Jackie Gleason classic not resemble Kevin Spacey in the treacly Pay It Forward (a reasonable fear since this is a Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation), it makes for truly compelling boob-tube trance time. At least I think it does. The DVD screener of The Wool Cap provided to us quit a little under halfway into the film, leaving several questions unresolved: Will the mother of Lou, the streetwise young black girl who has adopted Gigot as her recalcitrant guardian, return? Will the inevitable scene in which Gigot is confronted by the smack dealers and bouncers he has foiled be handled realistically? But I felt bereft of Gigot's company when the DVD self-destructed, which is a very promising sign.
Macy, his red beard going gray, is spot on as the eccentric, slovenly Gigot, smuggling his pet monkey into the diner in his coat pocket, and sleeping in the same long johns he wears to fix faucets and replace locks in his job as building super to a large, multi-ethnic, apartment community. Macy, who portrays vulnerability so well when it's called for, thankfully doesn't play this character for easy sympathy or cheap comedy. Despite his inability to speak, Gigot has his life arranged swimmingly. He communicates with his boss via fax and the tenants leave him affectionate rants on his answering machine (which the monkey predictably trounces in between handfuls of peanut butter). He is almost unbelievably brave - he refuses to turn over Lou's family to a couple of enforcers, and tosses a young man's crack out in the trash - until we realize that Gigot lives in such a state of self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world that it's not really conceivable to him that someone could pierce his invisible bulwark. Lou, of course, ultimately does, bringing both danger and reward.
For various reasons, it's been relatively difficult for aspirants to turn out heartwarming yet palatable contemporary holiday family fare. We're mostly left with reruns of It's a Wonderful Life. One of those reasons has been the failure to attract great talent and ascetic writing to the rosters, but it appears that The Wool Cap has done both with Mr. Macy. •
By Elaine Wolff