Film review: Snow Angels

Snow Angels
2007
Crossroads Films, Snow Blower Productions, True Love Productions

STARRING Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Michael Angarano, Olivia Thirlby, Amy Sedaris
WRITTEN BY David Gordon Green, Stewart O’Nan
PRODUCED BY Dan Lindau, R. Paul Miller, Lisa Muskat, Cami Taylor
DIRECTED BY David Gordon Green

SHOT BY Tim Orr
MUSIC BY Jeff McIlwain, David Wingo
DISTRIBUTED BY Warner Independent

Screened 2008-01-14

If Terrence Malick was 20 years younger and half as talented he might have presented us with this dreary ensemble pastiche.  The bleak, frigid Midwest (ever typified as little more than a breeding ground for freaks and misfits) is Green’s stage of the absurd.  Stuttering loser Glenn (Rockwell, in a skin than he seems to be most at home in) feebly attempts to hold down his entry-level job and keep his thoughts on the lord instead of his ex-wife, who just makes him want to die.  His far-too-pretty-to-be-believable, inexplicably pathetic ex-wife Annie’s shoes are filled by a passable but decidedly miscast Beckinsale.  The emotional tragedy of Glenn, Annie, and the awful disappearance of their four year old daughter is clearly the film’s central story, yet for whatever reason we spend a great deal of time following Arthur, an ineffectual teenager than Annie used to babysit, Arthur’s cute Anne-Hathaway-lookalike girlfriend who adores him for no fucking perceptible reason, and his divorcing parents, whose aimless storyline wouldn’t even constitute a short film in itself.  Glenn, never passing an opportunity to be pitiable, simpers and stalks his way back into Annie’s simple life (which is somehow too complicated for her to handle) just as their daughter disappears – if Glenn’s lord has a sense of humor, the joke’s on Glenn.

Angels is a half-hearted effort in which Green should’ve demanded much stronger performances.  It’s pretty clear that mumbly improvisation only works when it’s coming from a highly talented actor (and almost exclusively in a comedy setting), and for such an understated product like this, it simply doesn’t cut it.  There is an awkward imbalance of comedy and drama – Green seems to have chosen drama over comedy as the dominant mood, but can’t reconcile the decision, continually working tiny half-jokes into virtually every single scene, injecting the world he creates with a grim absurdity.  The film ends leaving us with the feeling that our random, irreverent lives will spiral into oblivion and that the incomprehensible boulder of the world will roll on with no imprint of our struggles and confusion – darned pessimistic.  Angels is too stylish and off-puttingly lighthearted to function as seriously as it attempts and at best will resonate numbly, and only with those who ‘really appreciate what Green was going for.’

written by David Ashley

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