Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things to do in Ireland: Turning Green

Clearly, James identifies with underdogs. It’s 1979 and he is a Mets fan. One would think he would also have a greater affinity for his Irish heritage. While provincial Ireland might look quaint, it is stifling for James, a teenager with galloping hormones determined to get back to New York by any means necessary, in Michael Aimette and John G. Hofmann’s Turning Green (trailer here), which opens tomorrow here in The City of Dreams.

After their mother died, James and his younger brother Pete were shipped off to their spinster aunts in Ireland. Their rigid Catholicism and worldly ignorance lead to some embarrassing moments for the former New Yorker. They are particularly baffled by why he spends so much time in the bathroom each day. At least he has a job, making collections for Bill the Bookie. Should anyone fall into arrears, Bill the Breaker pays them a nasty visit.

Frustrated in more ways than one way, James finds hope during a brief trip to England: dirty magazines, which were then strictly forbidden in the repressed Emerald Isle. In addition to helping meet short term needs, they offer the promise of real escape. After all, the kid understands supply and demand. Catholic or not, it turns out Irish men will indeed pay good money for contraband nudie mags. However, his illicit trade attracts the unwelcome attention of the Church and the Bills.

While it surely has an element of quirkiness, Green is much edgier than films like The Full Monty and Calendar Girls. It is after all about a teenager selling porn. Still, nothing truly untoward happens on-screen or off, aside from James’s compulsive taking care of business.

Notably assured for a newcomer, Donal Gallery gives one of the better teenaged screen performances in recent years as the porn smuggling James. He is certainly not too cute in the role. Apparently there is an Irish law forbidding the export of any film not co-starring Colm Meaney, who duly appears as James’s down-on-his-luck friend Tom, the sort of role that fits the Star Trek Next Gen actor like a rumpled tweed jacket. However, the real casting surprise in Green is the presence of Timothy Hutton (Academy Award winner for Ordinary People), looking like an unkempt Colin Farrell as Bill the Breaker.

Though Green’s budget was probably less than James’s cash stash, it is a surprisingly fine looking production. Tim Fleming’s lensing effectively captures the natural Irish beauty James could not be less interested in, while the jaunty original music by Pull (Mitch Davis and Scott Brittingham) propels the film along nicely. The retro animated title sequence also has a distinctive charm (but the distributor, New Films International, really ought to update their dated looking logo).

At its heart, Green is very definitely a coming of age story. In fact, growing proves to be a particularly painful process for its protagonist. That’s life, kid. Balancing wistful nostalgia with more dissolute elements reasonably well, Green is a small but likable film. It opens tomorrow (11/13) at the AMC Empire 25.