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by Jay Seaver

"A change that makes no sense, but that's sort of the point."
4 stars

SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2011: Ignore the first scene of this movie; it sets a tone and a theme that winds up being a relatively minor part of what follows. The remaining hour or so turns into something much more interesting than the conversational one-upmanship that starts "Green", and while uneven, it's at least an interesting and focused look at something that can be a cliché.

Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine) and Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) have been together for four years before they rent a house in Virginia. The idea is that Sebastian will make an attempt at farming and blog about it, and since they are New Yorkers rather than people used to living off the land, hilarity will ensue. On their first morning in the rented house, they find Robin (Sophia Takal) passed out on the front lawn; the owner of the place keeps a spare set of keys there for her. After that, Robin's always around, which isn't so bad at first - she's friendly, and while not part of the sophisticated crowd from back home, Genny finds it nice to have someone to hang around with, what with all the time on her hands. At least, until one day at the swimming hole, when it seems like everyone's getting a little close.

Green takes a major turn there, and having come into the film cold, I'm a little loath to say exactly what the change is, although it is almost impossible to discuss the film's merits and faults without doing so. At first, the change in tone seems like a fatal flaw in the film; it's sudden, unmotivated, and irrational, and when it appears as an incidental occurrence in a movie, the filmmakers usually deserve every bit of ripping they get for it. Here, writer/director/editor Takal doesn't explain causes, basically just inviting us to look at the two halves of the film, compare them, and consider whether or not we engage in this sort of ridiculous destructive behavior.

The cast are the same people as the crew in many cases - in addition to Takal's three behind-the-camera jobs, Levine serves as a producer - and a tight-knit one; Takal and Levine are engaged and Sheil is a close friend. It's not surprising, then, that they play off each other well and slip into their characters easily. Levine, for instance, takes the snobbery he establishes for Sebastian in the first inning and walks it backward just enough to keep him from being a grating presence throughout the entire movie. I like the way he plays parts of the second half, like he's not in unfamiliar territory. Takal, meanwhile, does a nice job of building her character from the other direction, starting from an almost overbearing niceness that's easy to snicker at initially but which quickly wins the audience over. There's a believable hint of insecurity to her, even if she's never described as such. And Sheil is quite impressive as Genny; it's hard to put an edge on boredom, but that's what she does. She's got perhaps the trickiest transition between halves, and while it's bumpy at first, it works out in the end.

The split between halves is unusual, but welcome; neither half is really bustling with activity, but switching things up keeps the audience from losing patience, even given the movie's fairly short run-time. That's not to imply that Takal's script is dull; she actually has a very nice ear for fish-out-of-water and gentle culture collision material. Takal and cinematographer Nandan Rao do nice things with the green surroundings of the title, too, bringing them from inviting to maybe just a little hostile as time goes on. The natural lighting even looks good at night; it genuinely feels like the characters are up too late.

The movie has an ending that is clear but worth discussing afterward, although getting there can be a little rough at times. For a simple little indie with a shaky beginning, "Green" evolves into something fairly interesting by the end.

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originally posted: 05/05/11 17:03:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 34th Starz Denver Film Festival For more in the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Sophia Takal

Written by
  Sophia Takal

  Kate Lyn Sheil
  Sophia Takal
  Lawrence Michael Levine

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