02 April 2008

Green Gone

I know I usually prefer hand clapping here but I have to ask. Is it now inarguable that David Gordon Green’s films have gotten progressively worse? George Washington>All the Real Girls>UndertowSnow Angels. I think this is (mathematically!) correct and what a shame. I, of course, like All the Real Girls the most since it is the most explicit LOVE and ROMANCE but probably the depth of characterization, place and Superman costumes in George Washington makes it the superior film.

I think the turning point has to be the moment a few shots into Undertow when the protagonist puts his foot through a nail. Everything since has been ordered around this oppressive, Gothic violence. And Snow Angels is relentlessly unpleasant, from sledgehammers to shotguns. There was one funny non sequitor I can't even remember.

Not surprisingly though, I wanted to love Snow Angels, defend it against its critics (as I just did with Funny Games). But I can't—I actually give this film less credit than most. Sure I can deride the people who still like to claim this is a period piece but it is just a DGG film—like Band of Horses songs they combine anachronism and modernity to free-range between the 70’s and the present.

I suppose Snow Angels still has beautiful codas of place detail, though it is strange to be in Nova Scotia instead of North Carolina. But Kate Beckinsale never felt quite right, her highlights slightly too well-done. DGG's recurring trombone is a welcome addition (and none of his previous trombonists have given head with a band hat on). The film is inescapably dominated by Sam Rockwell's caricature of drunken Evangelicalism though. I kept waiting for some nuance to the clearly anti-Christian Glenn but nothing interesting happens. He becomes less disturbing and more monotonous as the film goes on. Some people praised his work here as a "departure," a performance with "a new depth." Am I missing something? If we take the filet of Rockwell (Assassination of Jesse James... and Confessions of Dangerous Mind) when has he been anything besides deranged?

Olivia Thirlby does her best Zooey Deschanel but never as elusive as I’d like. I thought she might be the blow through town type but no—her two pairs of butterfly-wide eyeglasses seem permanent.

The Snow Angels shot that gave me the biggest, but temporary, thrill was a medium shot of a white and pink chalk drawing of a bride walking down the aisle. For a moment we can’t be sure where the blackboard is. But it turns out to be in the bar Glenn has chosen for self-destruction and his dance is nothing but ominous, unsettling. Compare that to the bar scene in All the Real Girls, where a more endearingly drunk Paul Schneider launches into his out-of-left-field stunner, “Have you ever seen an animal make a mistake?” Similarly, Nicky Katt’s Snow Angel serial cheater has depressing faux-prison tats whereas Paul Schneider’s cheesy tattoo in Real Girls provides impetus for an impromptu hot tub lesson on “Keltic lore.” I needed him to appear just once: walking into a room and saying, “It smells like pork tacos in here!” Give me a hug:

The bottom line might be I’m bitter Paul Schneider is not acting in Snow Angels—seeing his name in acknowledgment credits gave me a terrible pang.

But sober tones I have to say that I worry more and more about another of my favorite directors. After Marie Antoinette, Darjeeling Ltd., and Snow Angels, I don’t know how much more faltering I can stand.

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