Thursday, July 7, 2011


"Green" by Sophia Takal has the opposite problem of one of the three main characters, Robin. While she constantly (though maybe in the interest of trying to be polite) overstays her welcome, the film that she's in ends up being way too short at 75 minutes. It offers up a lot of interesting ideas about social structure, but doesn't go about explaining them to the extent that it should. This and the fact that many elements of the film feel strained are its biggest problems. If only these issues had been fixed somehow.

The film takes place almost entirely in a small town (possibly in Pennsylvania, judging from a license plate), opening with its only scene set in New York. We come in medius res, as people heatedly discuss Philip Roth and Proust. The camera darts between various angles before settling on Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), who will continue to be examined throughout the movie. This seems like a strange way to start things off, but we come to see how it establishes the dearly held intellectual status of Genevieve and her boyfriend Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine), her moderate distance from him, and how their life is full of consistent social interaction.

After this, the action moves to the rural home where the two are subletting for around a year as Sebastian writes an article about sustainable farming. They seem to think they're alone, and thus prepare themselves for a particular sort of intimacy. But soon, their neighbor Robin (played by writer/director Takal) comes stumbling into the picture. The way that Takal integrates her character into the plot exhausts credibility as much as her put-on Southern sounding accent does (you definitely can see from this interview that her voice is nothing like the one in the film). The difference in attitude of Genevieve and Sebastian regarding Robin from the first to second scenes struck me as kind of odd. However, it's a testament to Takal's much-remarked-upon strength as an actress that she can somehow make Robin into more than just a stereotype, even as at the same time she explores the way that both of the Manhattanites see her as one.

Robin again and again seems to be prying into their lives, offering to go on walks with them and show them around the town (though it's usually just with Genevieve) and becoming a regular at their table. Although Robin seems to get at a fun side in Genevieve's personality (eventually getting her to reveal certain personal stories), Genevieve feels her time slightly more and more disrupted. This happens especially when she starts to pick up on undertones of romance between Robin and Sebastian (which I took to be entirely imagined until the very end of the film, which I think Takal misplays). This she takes as an insult to her pronounced braininess.

Her intense disdain for Robin and her supposed mental incapacity comes out in the film's strongest scene (both thematically and technically), when, during a lunch, she asks Sebastian about returning to New York to attend an art show. Done in an unbroken take where the camera moves back and forth across the table, at times resting on Robin but seeing her as more a catalyst than a participant, this scene is the movie's most successful distillation of the tension between the three characters. It showcases Genevieve's iciness and quickness to laugh, Sebastian's abundance of humor, and Robin's knack for (perhaps strategically) saying things at the wrong times. It's in moments like this that "Green" excels.

It helps that Takal has a real eye for good dialogue (especially for Levine, who ironically supposedly is her fiancee in real life), arresting images (the transposition-heavy campfire scene is a stunner), and engaging techniques (the voiceover conversations between Genevieve and Sebastian are strong). Her main cinematographer Nandan Rao (Benjamin Nicholas and Kim Takal did additional photography, making it slightly hard to tell who shot what) creates a lot of nice compositions in the forest that often have interesting facets of focus. I'm less hot but still somewhat appreciative of the work of her composer Ernesto Caramo, who makes transitional textures that sound often like noises of aliens. The best job is done by the sound designer Weston Fonger, who makes certain features of the sound come out very palpably and thus produces an additional layer of friction between the leads.

What the director doesn't have down is how to put together the introverted and extroverted components of her story. Within each of the modes, the scenes jell quite nicely, but when Takal wants to switch from personal to public, the film feels awkwardly put together in a way that sort of screams Mumblecore (and probably actually is, due to the film's extremely small looking budget and type of content). This is a hitch that, along with the other flaws noted above, hurts the film as a whole. If Takal can avoid these weaknesses in the future (and maybe hire an editor other than herself), she could be an extremely strong filmmaker. B-

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