Friday, March 28, 2008

Snow Angels (2007, David Gordon Green)

One of the key conversations in this film comes just after high schooler Arthur (Michael Angarano) discovers the body of a young girl. After he finishes talking to the police, his mother takes him aside and warns him not to allow this tragedy to cause him to bottle up his feelings. What makes this conversation interesting is the way Green parallels Arthur's life with that of the older Glenn (Sam Rockwell), an alcoholic who turned to Christ after a failed suicide attempt, whose biggest problem may be the freedom with which he pours out his feelings. Glenn is not shy about giving of himself, whether others want it or not- one can sense the unvarnished sincerity of his intentions even when he's at his most threatening. Green's film, his fourth, is his most plot-bound to date, but he has retained his knack for balancing sometimes wildly different tones in order to keep the audience from slipping too far into melodrama. He also, for the most part, manages to coax natural and assured performances from his cast, particularly Angarano and of course Rockwell, who continues to be awesome. The weak link is Kate Beckinsale, who just can't drop her actorly primness to make the role work- she's fine when she's doing the Good Mom thing, but whenever she loses her cool one can see her straining. But the bigger problem comes from the film's construction itself. While Green creates some additional levels of interest in the story by contrasting his adult characters with the younger ones, this also leads to an overly deterministic dichotomy which basically shows the young people as happy and full of promise and the adults as damaged and hopeless. Of course, with age comes disappointment, but it all felt too neat to me, not to mention too nostalgic about the magic of youth. Still, Snow Angels is a worthy addition to an already-promising career, and if nothing else it'll make a nice contrast to this summer's much broader and more audience-pleasing Pineapple Express, which I don't think I have to tell you is going to be so awesome. Rating: 6 out of 10.

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