Why is it that the little towns always got to have the problems?
The film is about three relationships taking place in a small-town: teenage Arthur (Michael Angarano) and his quirky young love, Lila (Olivia Thirlby); his separating parents, Louise and Don (Griffin Dunne and Jeanetta Arnette); and his former babysitter, Annie (Kate Beckinsale), and her estranged, unstable ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell).
Writer/director David Gordon Green is a dude that has really been scratching people’s heads as of late. First, he does little small-town, indies like this and All the Real Girls, but then he goes onto stoner comedies such as Pineapple Express and Your Highness. Oh, and as of late there was a semi-remake of Adventures in Babysitting called The Sitter’but I didn’t bother with that shit so neither should you. However, those strange choices wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if they were all consistent.
What I can say about Green and his direction here is that the first hour does a pretty good job of creating a mood and atmosphere that sets in pretty quick. We get this slight foreshadowing scene in the beginning that tells us something dark is beneath the surface of this town, and then from there on it stays in pretty long. Also, s a film-maker, Green really does know how to capture some purty images like he did in All the Real Girls. However, instead of having the long shots of the fields in the South, we get a lot of long shots of these people hangin’ around in the snow and he films it all very well and brings a certain type of artistry to this flick. I just wish that was enough to keep my mind off of what was really going on here.
The real problem with this film is that Green has practically stacked about two or three different films here and even though this kind of structure has been used and done very well before, not all of the stories here jell quite as well. The love story between the two teens is pretty annoying since all they do is constantly babble about random things like fellatio and pictures, which is kind of how teenage relationships can be, but isn’t very cute and realistic here. The other relationship they focus on between Arthur’s parents is barely touched on here, but even when it is, it’s totally dumb and adds nothing to the film at all. Hell, they could have even left this whole sub-plot out but since Green obviously had to stay in touch with the source material, he couldn’t get rid of everything.
Neither of those stories are as interesting as the relationship between the estranged husband and wife, played by Beckinsale and Rockwell. Every time this story pops up on-screen, the film gets better and better not because of their performances but because it’s a story that feels real and touches on a very big truth of human relationships: changing. People change as they get older and they soon start to grow apart. These two have been together for almost their whole lives and it’s obvious that one can’t seem to want to have it anymore, while the other is practically heart-broken over it all. It’s a very true and realistic story that shows just how two people change and grow apart from one another, but Green never allows there to be anymore to it than just that and constantly takes the focus off of it and give it to these two other lame-o stories. Sorry for that little rant there but as usual, it was necessary.
I should also choose to mention that at about the one hour period of this flick, the film changes in its tone. Instead of being a dark drama, it becomes an even darker drama that has some suspense to it and even though it was sort of a bold step for Green to go in that direction, it didn’t work for the story. I don’t want to give too much away but the film loses control of itself by this point and the rest of the 47 minutes we have left with this flick just seem to go on and meander. Shame too, because I was actually getting into this film.
What really sold this film for me and got me closer and closer to recommending it was the two performances from Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, who are amazing here. I have never really liked Beckinsale in roles that she’s done because I’m not a big fan of the Underworld movies and whenever she does do character-driven roles like this, her performances come off more as wooden than emotional. Good thing for me was that her performance here as Annie isn’t like that one bit and shows me that she has a lot of talent when it comes to drama. She’s a very sad character that feels like she is a good woman, but is just stuck in a rut because of how she got stuck in life and is trying to find her way out of it. This character goes through a lot of changes throughout the flick and they all rang true thanks to Beckinsale’s surprisingly good performance.
How I initially felt for Beckinsale was not the same way I felt for Rockwell though because I’ve always thought that this guy is a no-joke actor and deserves at least one Oscar before his career is over. His performance here as Glenn is very good because even though he’s a dude that seems like you could never trust in your life, Rockwell brings out this sincerity and humanity to him that makes you believe that he is a good, if troubled guy. Glenn may get a little too crazy by the end of the flick, but Rockwell makes it all seem believable enough with just the right amount of good and evil in him. Somebody get this guy his damn Oscar already!
Consensus: Snow Angels features very good performances from the cast, but has about three or four different stories packed into here that may further talk about the issue of human relationships this film brings up plenty of times, but takes down the one story that kept my interest in the first place.