Turning Green -- Film Review

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Featuring a protagonist who outdoes even Philip Roth's Portnoy in terms of his fascination with pleasuring himself, "Turning Green" is an odd little comedy drama set in Ireland that boasts more onscreen talent than it deserves.

It's hard to imagine who the audience is for this 1979-set tale of a teenager who resorts to selling pornography to pay his and his younger brother's way to America. But whoever they are, they're bound to be few in number.

Sixteen-year-old James (Donal Gallery) and his kid brother, Pete (Killian Morgan), are living in Ireland with a trio of aunts after having been sent there years before by their widowed father. Bored out of his mind and contemptuous of the island and its inhabitants, James is desperate to get back to the States.

In the meantime, he spends most of his free time in the bathroom, leading his aunts to suspect that he has some sort of gastrointestinal problem. The actual explanation is a lack of inspiration because nudie magazines apparently were banned in Ireland at the time (that could explain all the hard drinking).    

Sent to London to see a medical specialist, James is agog to discover the plethora of pornography on display and decides to become a one-man import operation. Soon, he's buying and reselling stacks of girlie magazines to flocks of ravenous male customers, attracting the ire of a local bookmaker (Alessandro Nivola) and his thuggish strong-arm man (Timothy Hutton, in an atypical role).

Director-screenwriters Michael Aimette and John G. Hofmann attempt to mine plentiful humor from their gallery of eccentric characters, who include a hard-cussing priest and a gambler (Colm Meaney) with a drinking problem. Needless to say, the dialogue features plentiful use of the word "feckin'."

Despite a charismatic performance by its young lead and mildly amusing moments, the proceedings never really amount to much, with the filmmakers failing to sustain a coherent tone. Perhaps the film's biggest claim to fame is its origin as one of the runners-up in the now-canceled "Project Greenlight" series.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 13 (New Films International)
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