With Snow Angels, director David Gordon Green attempts to blend the homegrown naturalism from his previous work (George Washington, All the Real Girls) with a more mainstream narrative of overlapping tragedy and irony (a la Crash, Babel). The latter stylistic ends up winning out, while Green focuses on the personal tensions drifting under the surface of a small, snowy midwestern town. Snow Angels builds slowly from small indiscretions to more devastating events (foreshadowed in the opening sequence), and Green never represents a collective unrest in response to these horrors. Most of the characters are doomed individuals, unwilling or unable to reach out to thy neighbor for guidance or wisdom. This vacuum of pain produces two gut-wrenching performances by Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale as a couple on the verge of collapse and Green plays their requiem in the silent, more contemplative moments of the film. However, Snow Angels dismisses the consequences of communal alienation and indecision after laying the tragedy on thick, revealing a major thematic absence in the film’s strangely oblivious denouement.
Like most familiar with film culture, I understand a good trailer does not necessarily equal a good film. But with Pineapple Express, the newest Judd Apatow venture directed (seemingly in name only) by David Gordon Green, the discrepancy in innovation, tone, and overall impact between teaser and feature is downright shocking. Released a few months back, the dynamic Red Band trailer for Pineapple Express (which brilliantly juxtaposes rhythmic slow motion, comedy, brutal violence, and a killer song from MIA) hints at a stunning possibility – an artistic, formally innovative mainstream stoner comedy. The feature, anchored by a swiss cheese script, fails miserably on this promise, replacing coherent narrative storytelling with stream of consciousness drivel supposedly excused by the idiotic, heightened state of its two leads (played by Seth Rogen and James Franco). Still, personal disappointment aside, Pineapple Express manages to buck conventional Hollywood trends in interesting ways. Dialogue scenes are uncomfortably stretched out (presumably because of the improvisation taking place), pop culture references are eliminated, and specific time and place settings remain ambiguous throughout. This makes for a strange relationship between two formats at odds. The complex ambition of the short trailer and the eccentric simplicity of the feature create a tension in authorship worthy of further analysis.