Comments on watching and making films.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Snow Angels

David Gordon Green has made a reputation for himself over almost a decade of filmmaking. In that time, his three previous films have won both critical and audience acclaim (to be fair, when I say audience, I generally mean the independent film watching audience. None of his films have been fully mainstream). His first film George Washington, was an epic of small town ennui as experienced through a small group of poor friends who come to realize that their circumstances have trapped them in their lives. His follow up, All The Real Girls, was a dissection of love between two people who are not ready for it. His third film, Undertow, was the story of two young brothers on the run from their psychotic uncle. Now, he gives us his fourth film - Snow Angels.

Snow Angels stars Kate Beckinsale as Annie, a single mom working in a Chinese restaurant to support her little girl. She's estranged from her husband, Glen, played by Sam Rockwell, who is desperate to revive his marriage and his family life. Annie works with Barb (Amy Sedaris) and is sleeping with Barb's husband Nate (played by Nicky Katt). She also works with Arthur, a high school senior played by Michael Angarano, whom Annie used to babysit when he was young. Arthur meets and falls in love with the new girl, Lila, played by Olivia Thirlby.

Snow Angels is an incredibly dense, and sometimes hard to follow story. Green adapted the work from the Stewart O'Nan novel (the first time he has not directed an original work), and you can tell that the story is much more suited to the sprawling novel form. As a film, it often feels like Green is trying to fit as much of the novel into the allotted two hours as he possibly can, often times leaving the audience feeling like we are jumping from moment to moment, instead of witnessing a thoughtful, and thought out, story. The acting is top notch from everyone involved, except Sedaris, who sometimes falls a little flat. Thirlby is especially promising as Lila, the young nerdy girl who falls for Arthur. Angarano is perfect as Arthur, a disaffected young kid who just wants to find happiness. He's not concerned with money, popularity, or any of the things most teenagers want - just love.

Annie and Glenn's relationship is the other half of this story, with intense performances by Beckinsale and Rockwell. I can't really go into their relationship in this review, as it would give away part of the plot, but, needless to say, it's very interesting to see Annie and Glenn's relationship collapsing as Arthur and Lila's relationship is beginning.

One wonders how much interference the studio may have had in Snow Angels. The film seems a lot more scattered than Green's previous efforts. Of course, as I said before, it may have just been Green trying to stuff way more plot into two hours than is reasonable. 

I was a little disappointed with the cinematography, as well. Green re-teamed with his long time collaborator Tim Orr, but Snow Angels doesn't look anything like his first three films, instead looking more like almost every other Hollywood film. There's none of that natural, unkempt photography of the earlier films, the Mallick-esque beauty.

All in all, Snow Angels is worth a watch as a piece of Green's filmography. Outside of that, though, I'm not so sure you need to spend your time on it. There's nothing particularly amazing about it, unlike his previous films. I am looking forward to his next film, though, Pineapple Express, which looks hilarious.

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