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by Indiewire
March 7, 2008 12:01 AM
4 Comments
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REVIEW | Quiet Anger: David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels"

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve Ramos reviewed David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels" following its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.]

The moment in "Snow Angels" that qualifies stand-alone filmmaker David Gordon Green as the most artful of film masters occurs when Glenn (Sam Rockwell), a broken man, dances with two drunken patrons at a rundown tavern in the small Pennsylvania town he calls home. A birthday cake sits on a nearby pinball table without explanation. The room is dark, so dark that it's hard to say if one of the shuffling patrons holding Glenn is a man or woman. But everything is placed with the same attention to perfect detail as his previous three feature films, "Undertow," "All the Real Girls" and his best film, "George Washington."

Glenn's dance brims with true human feeling. It's a brave sequence, something I can't imagine another American filmmaker attempting. That's what separates Green's filmmaking from all others - his bravery for tackling unique storytelling.

Glenn (Rockwell) and his pretty wife Annie (Kate Beckinsale) have separated and both struggle to piece their lives back together. Glenn wants reconciliation with his wife and young daughter. Meanwhile, she embarks on an affair with a married man. As bad decisions lead to tragedies, "Snow Angels" makes a turn midway and shifts from family melodrama to a a thriller with a climax alongside a frozen lake. Of course, this is a thriller done the David Gordon Green way, meaning it's quiet, subtle and completely natural.

Sam Rockwell gives a physical performance, bashing his head against his pick-up truck. Rockwell does what Green needs everyone to do - he comes off believably as a regular Joe. Michael Angarano puts his aw-shucks personality to good use as Arthur, an affable teen who works with Annie. Olivia Thirlby stands out as Arthur's nerdy girlfriend. Theirs is the sweetest on-screen kiss in recent memory.

The only false notes belong to the too beautiful Kate Beckinsale. It's as if she's the only cast member who refused to wipe away her Hollywood make up for the sake of the story. "Snow Angels" is Green's first film shot above the Mason Dixon line as well as the first feature he adapted from a novel instead of his own writing. Yet, "Snow Angels" syncs perfectly with everything Green has shown audiences up to this point (including beautiful work from his regular cameraman Tim Orr). Green's growth is his ability to craft suspense.

The undeniable truth of Green's filmmaking is that there is no ambivalence about his movies. You either love his sense of deliberately paced naturalism or you find it lulling. Point Blank: I am a fan and will always celebrate his work.

[For more about "Snow Angels," read David Gordon Green's interview with indieWIRE from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.]


ABOUT THE WRITER: Steve Ramos is an award-winning film writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not on assignment, he maintains the blog Flyover Online.

Get the latest coverage of Park City '07 in indieWIRE's special section here at indieWIRE.com

4 Comments

  • ryknight | January 21, 2007 9:58 AMReply

    I gotta say, DGG is a personal fave so it'd be hard for me to write a fair assessment but hey, even if this is a "love letter" it's a nicely written one. And it only makes me wish I could see the picture that much more than I already yearn to. The Kate Beckinsale casting seemed a little off so my hopes were for her to wow me like Richard Gere in DAYS OF HEAVEN -- who knew? I've since realized Gere is a pretty good actor despite being very pretty. I don't know if the same can be said for Ms Beckinsale as I've never been that impressed by anything other than her movie-star goddess good looks. That said, she can't compare to the real Ava Gardner.

  • hardy jenns | January 21, 2007 6:03 AMReply

    Yeah, just say it from the heart, Steve. Just gush. No need to take yourself back from the work to illustrate for us, the readers, your interpretation, emotional or otherwise, of the work, and whether or not it is a success.



    Just tell us how much you love David Gordon Green, and how you will "always celebrate his work."



    "Always"? So, I guess we know what to expect from your reviews in the future: you'll love love love every film he makes, "point blank." So why bother reading them? Why bother writing them?



    And I'm curious. Did you mean it when you called David Gordon Green "the most artful of film masters"? Do you check over what you write? Are you familiar with many "film masters"?



    The headline above says "REVIEW." This is just a love letter. There's a difference between detached, informed, rigorous, clearly written criticism (Tim Orr isn't the "cameraman," he's the director of photography, or cinematographer) and a rushed, rhapsodic blog post.



    Say it from the heart, if you want, but doing so doesn't by default make you a film critic. It makes you a fan. There is a difference: film critics are in the service of the reader, fans are in the service of the artist.



    Indiewire led me to believe this was coming from a film critic.

  • hardy jenns | January 21, 2007 2:09 AMReply

    This is a fawning, yawning piece of writing. "Point blank: I am a fan and will always celebrate his work." Awesome...maybe you shouldn't review his films, then. Doesn't Indiewire screen this kind of stuff? What are these awards Steve Ramos has been winning?

  • popcornnroses | January 21, 2007 12:06 AMReply

    Does the fact that he's reviewing the film mean he's somehow not allowed to be a fan of Green's?



    Kiss off, hardy jenns...



    Steve, great piece, said from the heart, the way every review should be...