by Greg Muskewitz
"George Washington," an already over-praised small indie set in a run-down Southern town, marks the directorial and writing debut of David Gordon Green.Throughout the press notes, you are reminded that this is to be similar to Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven," but the movie that I was reminded of was Ray Ashley's 1953 "The Little Fugitive." A group of young kids, predominantly black here with the added conceit of certain existential crises, play around abandoned lots and amusement parks. One kid, George (Donald Holden), has a condition where his skull is still like that of a baby's; it can't even handle being under-water. But amidst some horseplay, he accidentally knocks one of his friends down to the ground with a hard blow to the head. The boy dies, and the three kids including George keep a lid on it. Soon after, George risks his life to save another kid (poignant scene, especially the gratitude the mother of the child shows; how do you repay or thank a child for saving the life of their own?) and he then makes it his duty to carry on such things. ("Just little things, but to other people, it's bigger.") It's clear upfront that this is a hero-in-making ("...he wanted greatness") and the allusions to the primier president. There is a lot of symbolism, much to which is undicipherable upon only one viewing, but the movie itself provides little enthusiasm or desire for repeat watches. The story is puffed up to be some neo-classic of our times, but it fails to touch anywhere near it. Is our cinema so moribund that this is the best to offer? I doubt that. While it is not a bad movie, it fails to create a unique aura -- something the press kit thinks it has done nicely. It's actually very plain, albeit purposely austere, but even if there was a budget for this, there is not much that can be absorbed from it. Despite what it argues, "George Washington" is ordinary. In a filmic sense, the Cinemascope is clear and very nicely composed, but again, it is making a big deal out of a little something. And it is also worth mention that, although the children are non-actors, they don't achieve as much of the realisticness that Green set out for. Whereas many times non-actors seem unadulterated and uninhibited, although the children in "George Washington" are amiable, they feel coached and mannered, and the narration comes off very awkward and unrealistic. However, there still is an understanding and an acceptance of the message that's being conveyed, and it does not hurt to express the need and hope for our own little heroes.
"Too eager and too ambitious to be a classic."
http://www.landmark-theatres.comFinal Verdict: B-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4525&reviewer=172
originally posted: 02/21/01 19:59:56