Early into my cinephilia, if you were to suggest that David Gordon Green was America’s most promising young filmmaker, I would suggest that you’re probably not as wrong as usual. Yet at this point, critical complaint about Green’s downward spiral comes across as just plain whining. He’s not the same filmmaker who made such ephemeral masterworks as George Washington and All the Real Girls. Nor is he the same filmmaker to produce low-hanging fruit comedies like Your Highness or The Sitter. No, his current trajectory aims at producing palatable and innocuous prestige pictures. His previous film, Our Brand is Crisis, intended as a Sandra Bullock vehicle to her second Academy Award, didn’t quite achieve the awards-driven recognition it strived for. Stronger, a film that meets a checklist of topical social issues anchored by a physically demanding performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, seems better positioned to garner the sort of industry approval that has eluded Green.Read More
I’ve admired David Gordon Green’s output over the years for a variety of reasons. He’s been a director (with the aid of his regular cinematographer Tim Orr) of considerable visual aptitude. As a budding cinephile, his work often struck me as oppositional to the other narrative-heavy, American independent filmmakers. His emulation of Terrence Malick doesn’t necessarily feel like riffing but rather a natural expression of the social milieu he probes. The rawness of his films is heightened by his subject matter, which often deals with the plights of the working class and poverty-stricken. But rather than embellishing or exploiting his subjects, he imposes a distance to his subjects - it’s particularly the case in his early films where his direction is dictated by observational tendencies rather than a series of plot devices.
George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels all embody a lyrical quality that positioned Green as the heir apparent to Terrence Malick. The start of his sell-out period (Pineapple Express) didn’t drown out the director’s cathartic qualities either and showed promise that the director could work different styles to a degree of success. Last year’s Prince Avalanche showed the director returning to his roots to a degree, offering the Green’s Great Compromise ™ - effectively balancing the comic sensibility he’d adopted for two films (Your Highness and The Sitter) to the melancholia of his earlier films. Whereas Prince Avalanche was a successful recalibration of his style, Joe is a complete return to form.Read More
For nearly a decade, David Gordon Green has perfected a certain type of film. With his incredible 2000 debut George Washington, Green introduced audiences to his delicate style while maintaining a deeply entrenched human anchor to all his proceedings. The depressed social conditions of rural North Carolinian youths of George Washington; the doomed romance of his follow-up All the Real Girls; the severed familial bonds of Undertow; the collapsed small-town milieu in Snow Angels. All these films accented by Green’s graceful flourishes and cinematographer Tim Orr’s beautifully-rendered imagery. It was in 2008 when mainstream audiences were presented with Pineapple Express, a vehicle quite unlike any of Green’s previous efforts. While his pictures were never devoid of humor, Green’s work can be best described as emotionally heavy. Green’s subsequent run in comedy hasn’t yielded much critical adoration. Their commercial intake is a different matter: the critically-maligned Your Highness took in over 200% of all of Green’s first four films, combined. To see Green continue on with his commercial efforts makes fiscal sense, though it’s a welcome event to see him reenter the art house with something of a compromise in Prince Avalanche, a comedy defined by the poetic lyricism that made so much of his early work a revelation.Read More