Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rumor has it: Williford/Marcarelli's THE GREEN heads straight for VOD and DVD

Talk about stacked! And I am not -- though I very well could be -- speaking of one of the hunky leading men, the borrowed-from-Broadway Cheyenne Jackson, who co-stars in THE GREEN. Instead, I'm referring to the film's screenplay (by Paul Macarelli), an increasingly paint-by-numbers affair that sets up a semi-happy gay couple (a high school teacher and his caterer companion) in a small New England town suddenly beset with a nasty accusation of inappropriate behavior, after which nearly everyone turns against them -- including the twosome itself. Soon a deep dark secret from the past is revealed, and by the time the movie comes, via one over-wrought scene after another, to its feel-good conclusion, we're drowning in cliché.

This is too bad. The filmmakers (TV soap maven Steven Williford of All My Children, shown at right, directed, and legit theater vet Daryl Roth is one of the executive producers) have rounded-up a good group of actors -- some "name," some not-so -- all of whom deliver as best they can. They all have  their moments, but with a screenplay that seems as increasingly contrived as this one, those moments appear just part of all the melodrama that's coalescing into a very deep pile of sturm und drang.

In the cast are some real stalwarts, particularly on the femme side. Julia Ormond (above, right) does another fine job as the accused’s smart, genuine and realistic attorney;

Illeana Douglas (above, right: always great to see her on-screen) is nudgy, funny and vey real as our hero’s best pal; and Karen Young (shown at bottom) is aces as the confused and put-upon mother of the young student whose “accusation” (except that it isn’t quite that) sends everyone into conniptions.

It’s the male members who are more problematic, but this, I suspect, is due to their not being so easily able to rise above a screenplay that piles on the angst-filled events with a shovel, in the process, stacking its deck a little too heavily against the protagonist. In the leading role Jason Butler Harner (above) is mostly dour and single-note, though a nicely ironic sense of humor does show through at times. Mr. Jackson, shown at right, as his partner, provides a pleasant change from the glum (and some eye-candy).

As the troubled student, Jason, Chris Bert (being bullied, above center) performs impressively as the kid who's utterly beside himself, even if his character must finally rely on a back story that is a little too standard. In the role of the kid’s stepfather, Bill Sage is properly pig-headed, venal and nasty, but the finale’s “surprise” revelation, accompanied by the most melodramatic events possible under this fraught situation, will come as a shock only to those who have not seen this particular character -- a favorite boogeyman of gay fiction for years now -- maybe thrice-too-often.

The movie wants to tell us that, despite the many gains gays have made over the past few decades, we’re still under the guns of prejudice and homophobia once an accusation is raised. So instead of retreating into silence and fear, a stand must be taken. Well and good. And younger gays, with much less experience in art or life may just bite.

But those of us who’ve been around the block a few times will probably not be satisfied with a movie that unreels like an increasingly schlocky melodrama coupled to an after-school-special featuring a dollop of extra dirt.

The Green, from FilmBuff, goes straight to VOD this Tuesday, October 18, and then to DVD one month later on November 22 -- available for purchase or rental.

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