No matter how “evolved” we may be as a society, there’s always the off-chance that someone, in some culture, is completely flummoxed by the evidence of progress with which others have grown familiar. So the fact that “The Green” centers on a reasonably attractive gay male couple isn’t really worth a second glance for most of us, but there must be acceptance as to those who might find this, at worst, an odd, intriguing novelty of sorts.
The couple, Michael and Daniel, have fled from the busy hustle of New York City for the “green” of Connecticut. Daniel is happy to handle chores and work part-time, while Michael teaches at a local school, all the while the two of them uncertain about how quiet their union must be. There’s already some tension about why a fifteen-year couple hasn’t gotten married yet, though both have safely revealed their love to a handful of accepting friends. However, that tension erupts when Michael foolishly tries to intervene in the life of a struggling, possibly gay student. The boy responds with force, creating an altercation and then pinning “inappropriate behavior” on Michael’s actions. Michael grows confused as a media firestorm erupts, innocent as local law enforcement and area families scorn the couple.
“The Green” is billed as a “suspense thriller” but most of the tension arises from a growing distrust between the couple. “The Green” seriously focuses on the struggles of the oppressed as they try to shed their baggage merely for the right to assimilate. Michael and Daniel aren’t interested in doing anything but lead a quiet life together. The only problem is the past, the scores of accusations that have dogged them previously and tarnished their reputation. You need not pay attention to the bigots, but what if your mate doesn’t have that same choice?
Which is where our evolved society comes into play. Michael and Daniel’s arguments come from a place of truth, with one more committed to the relationship than the other and suddenly starting to question his arrangement. But it’s also false — counter these discussions with those between the leads in last month’s gay drama “Weekend” and you’ll notice that stark difference. “The Green” is sex-blind, in that we’ve seen this dialogue and dynamic play out in a similar manner in several hetero television shows and movies, with one spouse being overly dramatic in his reactions, and the other retreating inward, hitting their cues like a Very Special Episode.
If you’ve never seen these television shows or movies, then of course “The Green” will feel fresh, it’s approach to reluctant coupling new or original. But there lacks that kernel of truth, specifically for Daniel, who gets short shrift. By questioning their arrangement in lieu of these baseless allegations, Daniel should be questioning himself as well, specifically the confidence he has being out and proud while his quieter mate stews. But the script leaves Daniel to over-the-top histronics that clash in an overly familiar way with the more taciturn Michael. Casting the picture in a similar manner — Cheyenne Jackson is larger-than-life handsome as Daniel, while Jason Harner makes a bookish, shy Michael — is a lazy shorthand as well. We see their contrasting physicality, and every possible interaction is already playing out in our heads.
“The Green” is reduced to dramatically stacking its deck, reducing its conflict to artificiality with a third act reliant on a bigoted wild card, making the facile assumption that homophobes are generally ill-equipped to handle any real conflict. At the same time, a crusading lesbian lawyer played by Julia Ormond feels more like tokenism than anything else, an inorganic attempt to avoid the cynicism of a suspense thriller involving enlightened, progressive people meeting their end in the suburbs. It’s not that “The Green” is terrible as much as it’s entirely too familiar, and entirely too predictable. [C-]
“The Green” is currently available On Demand and hits DVD on November 22nd.