From Sundance 2007: David Gordon Green's Snow Angels
I saw the first best movie of 2006 at last year's Sundance (scoff all you want but it was Art School Confidential, and I own it now and have seen it two more times, so I'm pretty confident about this), and now I've seen the first best movie of 2007: David Gordon Green's devastating relationship drama Snow Angels. It's suspenseful, sad, and oddly hilarious.
It opens on a high school football field. The marching band is practicing Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and it is not going well. The conductor berates them ("Who will be my Sledgehammer?!?") and suddenly two gunshots ring out from the woods in the distance. We then flashback weeks earlier and meet three different couples at three different stages of relationships: flirty teens Arthur and Lila, recently separated Don and Louise (the parents of Arthur), and the long-separated Glenn and Annie. Each of the stories is progressively darker and sadder, but cutting between them blends the sweet and the sour, the funny and the depressing. The frequent and sudden swings of emotion throw audiences for a loop in a way that reminded me of Children of Men.
I'm not one for prognostication because, honestly, I'm not smart enough about the business. But if Sam Rockwell doesn't get an Oscar nomination for this performance once the film receives a release there is something wrong with the system. As the alcoholic, born again Glenn, he gives the performance of his career to date: always sweet and funny enough to show why the people around him suffer his ample and numerous flaws. He's a good father and a terrible husband. Even at his scariest he is never less than completely sympathetic and more than a touch pathetic.
I wasn't particularly enthused in the first act (it felt a little too Little Children to me) and Kate Beckinsale is a little too beautiful for the role of Annie. But the pacing is perfect, the storylines totally engrossing, and Green's subtle visual work (from the delicate focus shifts to brilliant metaphors) is inspired. A lot of Sundance movies look like works-in-progress; many are. Snow Angels is a complete experience. I hope Green doesn't change a shot.