Friday, February 29, 2008

Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)

Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)
Rating: 7.7

Snow Angels is David Gordon Green's first adaptation (of a novel by Stewart O'Nan), and features his biggest name cast to date with Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Griffin Dunne, and Amy Sedaris. Despite these small changes the film is undeniably true to David Gordon Green's style. Tim Orr once again takes care of the photography and Jeff McIlwain and David Wingo contribute the score. Technically speaking the film has a lot of problems, some of which it manages to get away with due to the lo-fi indie nature of it, and others that are too glaring to write off such as the scene where Arthur (Michael Angarano) brings his girlfriend, Lila (Jeanetta Arnette), a plate full of pancakes for breakfast only to magically transform into waffles in the subsequent shots. The cinematography wasn't as impressive as I remember some of Green's other films being and there are some soft focus issues, however there are still a lot of beautiful shots, particularly of the snow covered wooded areas and frozen lakes. The most noticeable problem was the overmodualated production audio, especially during scenes where character's yelled or raised their voices. Even though this is obviously a low budget film, it is still a professional project and there is really no excuse for such a blemish.
Like Green's other film's the story takes place in a small town, with working class characters and the camera captures the natural beauty and ugliness of nature and humanity. The writing and the acting comes across as very naturalistic and believable, and despite the overall serious tone there are quite a few awkward moments of humanistic comedy, perhaps even more so here than in his previous work. The narrative explores several different relationships including two young teenage lovers just getting to know each other, Arthur's parents who have recently separated and are attempting to cope with that, and Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and her Husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell) who have been a child, but have been separated for some time. Although Rockwell, Beckinsale, and Angarano are the most flushed out characters, Snow Angels works as a great ensemble piece, and shifts focus between the different characters fluidly and unforced. The youthful couple serves as a foil as well as a reminder of what Glenn and Annie once were. Although this film has more of a central story to it than Green's first two efforts, it still has that meandering feel to it, as the tragic story is almost secondary to the joy, pain, confusion, ambitions, and suffering of the characters. The tonal shifts are impressively handled and probably what I enjoyed most about the film it's just a shame at how amateurish parts of the film come across as due to technical flaws.

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