Monday, August 23, 2010

David Gordon Green and George Washington

David Gordon Green is one of the best and most talented directors working right now. The film your average moviegoer would know of Green's is 2008's Pineapple Express, but your average cinephile knows Green as the director of the low key indie movies All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels. I wrote previously about Snow Angels in December of '08, but I just recently watched Green's debut movie George Washington and felt the need to write a bit about it as well. Working with a budget under $50,000, Green and his most essential collaborator, cinematographer Tim Orr, created a movie of understated beauty and feeling.
Working with a cast of mostly non-actors, Green gives us a sort of rural, quiet coming of age story. A group of kids hang out, play, talk, and sometimes just look at the unexpected elegance of their bucolic surroundings. A tragedy befalls the group, and each child deals with it in a different way. The quiet, odd George, who due to the plates in his head not fusing correctly isn't supposed to get his head wet, saves a kid from drowning in the local pool. Both kids survive, with George branded a community hero, a badge he may wear a little too seriously as he begins dressing up as a superhero and trying to do good deeds around town. But none of Green's movies are about plot. They're about feeling, sometimes articulated, and sometimes not. Also, a little nostalgia. This is one of those summers that changes everything for these kids, they're becoming teenagers and this is really their last moments of childhood, cut even shorter by the startling accident.
This would actually be the movie I would only recommend to someone who's seen Green's other movies and liked them. His brilliant All the Real Girls is a bit more accessible, as a story of teenage romance, even if it doesn't deal with it in the same light we usually see from teen romance movies. They have a lot in common, as they're about a certain loss of innocence. About moving on and growing up, even if you don't think you're ready for it. Green's most easily watchable is certainly Undertow, with Josh Lucas's crazy uncle chasing after the fortune he believes his nephews have run away with. It's a terrific movie, as usual for Green it's gorgeously filmed, and is his most conventional movie. Actually, strike that. Pineapple Express, even though a bigger budgeted "mainstream" movie is still quite unconventional, though is certainly more accessible to your average moviegoer. His next project is called Your Highness and is a fantasy/comedy starring Zooey Deschanel (his leading lady from All the Real Girls), Danny McBride (his friend from college who was in Real Girls, as well as Pineapple), James Franco (who did the best work of his career in Pineapple), and Natalie Portman (working with Green for the first time). So he's branching out and trying new things, which I think should always be admired in the world of cinema where it seems a quest just to find new things. I think Green is a director I will continue to admire for a long time to come, and one whose new movie will always be anticipated by me.

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