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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 5.88%
Average: 35.29%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 5.88%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Snow Angels
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by brianorndorf

"Green's last kiss of gloom before catching the Pineapple Express"
3 stars

It’s reached a point with David Gordon Green’s directorial efforts that either you respond to the loose, interpretive dance of psychological unraveling the filmmaker loves to bathe in, or you sit there stunned that anyone would give Green money and a camera to flex his Malickian muscles for unfathomable reasons.

To me, Green has always been a puzzling manufacturer of stillborn emotive abstraction, but “Snow Angels,” much like his earlier feature “All the Real Girls,” finds the director inching close to genuine catharsis in a fashion few of his peers could even understand. That doesn’t make “Angels” anywhere near a perfect film, but for Green, it’s a triumph of sufficient participatory results.

Living in a small, working-class town, Annie (Kate Beckinsale) is struggling to make a living to support her toddler daughter, trying to keep her suicidal, needy ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell) at a safe distance, while he attempts to put his life back together through faith. Arthur (Michael Angarano) is Annie’s teenage co-worker, a boy once infatuated with Annie but now finds his attentions turned to Lila (Olivia Thirlby), a new student at his school who takes a shine to the awkward teen. Setting off on a tentative, kindly relationship with Lila, Arthur finds he must navigate around his own domestic troubles, found in the impending divorce of his parents (Griffin Dunne and Jeanetta Arnette).

“Snow Angels” (based on Stuart O’Nan’s novel) is a deeply troubling motion picture centered on the mounting mistakes of characters that hold no map to happiness, regardless how much they pray for some light at the end of the tunnel. This level of intense personal observation is like candy to Green, who has fashioned an entire career out of tracking the misery of fictional personalities, as they wallow in the rising muck trying to survive the day. It has all the trappings of a typical Green offering, with the possible exception of a new, curious element: star power.

Working with an ensemble consisting of established names and buzz-worthy young talent, Green is removed from his comfort zone of casting friends and obvious choices to portray backwoods evildoing. Both sides of the camera benefit from the new challenge.

The performances are impressive in “Snow Angels,” especially from Beckinsale, who breaks out of her monotone blockbuster funk to portray an anxious woman trapped in a slowly suffocating life. It’s a performance of irritation and significant romantic disappointment that renews faith in the actress. Rockwell also submits some authentic moments of disturbing behavior as Glenn struggles mightily to balance his inner forces of good and evil, tripping over his moral intentions with chilling results.

The cast is sent to Green’s boot camp of improvisational exploration, as the troupe enjoys the freedom to bat around their every last trained whim, managing to convey dark thoughts and startling digressions while indicating mundane human behaviors such as nose-picking, fretting about a facial pimple, and smelling fresh paint on their hands. This has always been Green’s method of madness; it’s his curiosity that soaks up nearly half of the film, letting his actors loose to fondle the frame and sniff out a close approximation of a natural reaction. It’s certainly an affected way to do business, and “Angels” contains many scenes that fall apart as they meander to reach a profound result instead of a dramatic point.

The last act of the film (where Annie’s daughter goes missing, leaving the town suspicious of Glenn) is crammed with moments that dissolve into pretention, wandering away from the core tension of the story, reeking of stubborn creative indulgence the movie can’t support. The cinematography by Tim Orr, as beautiful and snow-kissed as it is, falls into the same trap, starting to call attention to itself with needless, showboat moves instead of servicing the story. The half-realized visual thumbprints aggravate immediately and do an outstanding job pulling the viewer out of the eventual call for suspense.

Green redeems himself with the thematic reach of “Snow Angels,” drawing a contrast, or possibly signaling a lament, between the burgeoning love Michael is encountering and the venomous relationship dissolution plaguing the rest of the couples in the picture. It’s a thread the material strokes with the most satisfaction, even when Green can’t help himself and inches toward unsavory sexual displays that come off superfluous, even for this filmmaker. In a very troubling way, “Snow Angels” is about the puzzling motivations of love, and when the picture quiets down and confronts these characters directly, everything falls right into place, lending the film a distinctive sympathy Green has never exposed before.

The climax of “Snow Angels” is something that is undoubtedly jaw-dropping, yet feels utterly appropriate to the conflict at hand. Green initiates clear biblical overtones, and the picture heads to a place of discomfort and, in quite surreal fashion, everlasting peace.

As heavy as it is, “Snow Angels” is perhaps the most accommodating of Green’s blue period of filmmaking, using shining stars and newborn romance to brighten up a recognizable stroll down to the dark spaces of the heart.

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originally posted: 09/20/08 00:40:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2008 Florida Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/06/12 christopher Green is a genius. This film just flows. So deftly gauged. Truly riveting. Hats off. 5 stars
5/09/08 Arlene White Poignant and moving, amazing acted by Kate Beckinsale. 5 stars
4/27/08 Elizabeth Beautifully acted. 4 stars
4/22/07 Julia Keegan this movie is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it captures every little detail! 5 stars
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  07-Mar-2008 (R)
  DVD: 16-Sep-2008


  DVD: 16-Sep-2008

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