Green: AFI Fest Film Review

Green Review AFI Film Festival - H 2011

Green Review AFI Film Festival - H 2011

A three-hander that portrays but never thoroughly investigates how women grow irrationally jealous of one another.

This film’s writer/director/editor/star, Sophia Takal, looks at how females grow irrationally jealous over virtually nothing, seeing other women as threats and seeking validation from men.

Green is a film so insular and self-absorbed that a viewer feels like an intruder. Some of this is intentional on the filmmakers’ part. The core of the movie lies in the careless comments, then pointed words and studied glances among three characters in the splendid isolation of a New England house in the woods. And the intimacy no doubt stems from the real-life relationships among this trio, roommates who apparently take turns making DIY movies with each other and a tiny crew of close friends.

But the film never broadens that intimacy to include its audience. Rather the camera acutely observes the threesome’s behavior. Moving back and forth or rack focusing to bring one character into focus while fuzzing out the other, it catches telltale signs of rising sexual tension or pangs of jealousy. But the affect is voyeuristic rather than engrossing.

The film is perfect for festivals — Green has played at least a half-dozen — but the movie would be hard pressed to sustain even a week’s run at Film Forum or the Sunset 5.

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The film’s writer/director/editor, Sophia Takal, previously starred in her producer/fiancé Lawrence Michael Levine’s Gabi on the Roof in July along with their roommate Kate Lyn Sheil. Only in this outing and now directing for the first time, she casts Levine as Sheil’s boyfriend and herself as the girl who comes between them — or does she really?

That question mark represents the film’s strong suit. If the alienation of affections were overt, the film would descend into overly familiar territory that Hollywood has strip-mined. Instead Takal is more interested in how females grow irrationally jealous over virtually nothing, seeing other women as threats and seeking validation from men.

In truth, Levine’s character should never inspire jealousy in any woman. He will never love or respect any woman half as much as he does himself. Levine, shirtless in most of his scenes and rarely hearing what anyone says beyond superficial remarks, has created a marvelous portrait in unaware narcissism.

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For that matter, Takal has created a marvelous portrait in vacuity and Sheil in ferocious insecurity. But this represents the film’s weakness. Do you want to spend long summer days and nights with such people?

Levine’s Sebastian has moved to the country to blog about sustainable farming although it’s clear he knows little about the subject. Sheil’s Genevievre, his intellectual superior, has gone along for no apparent reason other than being with her man. Takal’s dope-smoking, empty-headed chatterbox, Robin, befriends the couple without too much encouragement on their part.

Initially, Genny and Robin are closer. But the couple’s sexual frustrations with one another cause Genny to imagine a greater bond between her man and Robin. The green monster gnaws at her worst fears and toys with her fragile mind.

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All of which sounds more interesting than it is. First of all, the sheer banality of the dialogue, some of which may be improvised, is dispiriting to hear. The thing about all too many so-called mumblecore movies is that the mumbling is never really about much. By narrowing the focus so tightly to three people with little action and few developments, the movie achieves dramatic stasis. The only real activity takes place in Genevieve’s mind.

Then there’s the missing third act. The film abruptly stops after 70-plus minutes without a resolution or climax. You might imagine that the heroine goes back to New York and gets a better boyfriend while Sebastian, mired in his blog, fails to notice her absence. But you will have to imagine it; the filmmaker simply leaves her alter ego in a muddle.

Tech credits are minimal with no costume or production designers, Ernesto Cárcamo’s score hinting at a sexual thriller that never quite happens and Nandan Rao’s self-conscious digital photography yielding a few arresting images but not nearly enough.

Venue: AFI Fest
Production company: Little Teeth Pictures
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine
Director/screenwriter/editor: Sophia Takal
Producer: Lawrence Michael Levine
Director of photography: Nandan Rao
Music: Ernesto Cárcamo
Sales: George Rush

No rating, 76 minutes