David Gordon Green

2000
George Washington 92
[ A small town wasteland, crushed by the Deep South heat. An interracial group of kids (their common poverty seems to make skin color irrelevant), not too bright but with their hearts in the right place. No clear plot, but much contemplation, much lyricism and an unlikely super-hero. Add great Cinemascope cinematography, a haunting score and casually philosophical narration, and you can’t help but think of Terrence Malick’s oeuvre, but a series of quirky flourishes and the sometimes clumsy but always natural actors make Gordon’s heartbreakingly beautiful first film into its own beast. ]

2003
All the Real Girls 93
[ review ]

2004
Undertow 64
[ review ]

2008
Snow Angels 90
[ review ]

Pineapple Express 93
[ review ]

2011
Your Highness 89
[ review ]

The Sitter 69
[ Why did I skip this one in theatres again? Oh yeah, near-unanimous rotten reviews. But as is often the case with almost universally panned flicks, it’s actually not so bad. In fact, if like me, you’re a fan of 1) Jonah Hill and 2) David Gordon Green in comedy mode, this is actually a really fun watch. It’s no “Superbad” or “Pineapple Express” (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg didn’t write it after all), but as an homage to lowbrow, everything-goes 80s comedies, it works more often than not. “The Sitter” takes place over one crazy night, as Hill stumbles into babysitting three problem children (neurotic Max Records, wannabe-celebutante Landry Bender and juvenile delinquent Kevin Hernandez) then finds himself having to deal with drug dealers (Sam Rockwell and J.B. Smoove, who just about steal the movie), black thugs and dirty cops. Hilarity ensues (it really does!). There are pacing issues and it’s all over the place, but that shaggy-dog quality is part of the fun for me. I particularly enjoy the over-the-top oddness, like the scene set in a bodybuilder-experiment emporium (you’ll see!). I’m also still very found of the mix of funny and unsettling that is also present in “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness” (and on TV’s “Easbound & Down,” that insane HBO series co-directed by Jody Hill and David Gordon Green), and which of course can be traced back to the likes of David Lynch, the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, etc. You know, when a series of fucked up things happen and you’re not sure whether you should laugh or not? Love that shit. ]

2013
Prince Avalanche 44
[ I’m a big fan of David Gordon Green’s Hollywood comedies, but it’s interesting to see him dial it back and do another little indie flick that’s more subtle and lyrical and whatnot. Well, in theory, anyway. To be honest, even though I appreciated the cinematography by longtime collaborator Tim Orr and the score by Explosions in the Sky, I had a hard time caring for Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch’ characters, a couple of brothers in law workers painting yellow lines on a road in the middle of nowhere. Their conversations are rather dull and nothing much happens to them. At some point, Hirsch goes to town for the weekend to get laid… But we don’t follow him! We stay with Rudd in the woods, doing little of consequence. Later on, something does happen involving Rudd’s relationship with his girlfriend, via a letter and a phone call… But it’s not like they get a scene together face to face or anything. It only leads to the two guys bickering some more. And then the climax is pretty much them getting drunk and fucking up their work. Oh, a bit after that, they leave to go to a beauty pageant where they hope to bang the future Miss America. Sounds fun, but of course, the movie ends before they get there. Now, Rudd and Hirsch are solid and, like I said, the movie looks and sounds good. I just wish it wasn’t so uneventful. ]

2014
Joe 79
[ Was this ever released in Montreal theaters? The film earned very positive buzz during its festival run, but its (limited) release in April 2014 didn’t make a huge impact. In any case, David Gordon Green is one of my favorite filmmakers, both for his early arthouse films and for his broad comedy period, so I for sure wanted to see his latest. “Joe” stars Nicolas Cage in the titular role of a Texas ex-con now working as the boss of a all-black lumberjack crew. Right away, the Southern setting, the magic-hour cinematography, the ambient score and the tone call to mind Green’s “George Washington” or “Undertow”. The first act has a loose, hanging-out feel, though because of the violent opening scene involving 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) and his selfish old drunk of a father (Gary Poulter, a homeless man who died soon after the shoot), we know the movie won’t all be about the camaraderie between Joe and his crew, which Gary soon joins. Sure enough, about half an hour in, things turn violent again via the appearance of a scary looking motherfucker played by Ronnie Gene Blevins… But “Joe” doesn’t become a full-on thriller or anything. It’s like it just happens to take place in this rough environment where getting shot is something that happens from time to time. Next thing you know, Joe’s back in the woods with his workers or at home, drinking, smoking, watching TV, going to the general store, going to the brothel… This is hardly a plot-driven film, it’s mostly about atmosphere and character. I had problems with Green’s previous “Prince Avalanche” for being so uneventful, but the difference here is that I really cared about Joe and Gary, plus the antagonists are perfectly loathsome. Great acting all around, with Cage in particular delivering one of his best performances in a long time. ]