on September 10, 2004 by Bridget Byrne
Set in the murky damp environs of the Northwest, "Evergreen" is a blue little tale of modern teenage angst, the social divides of America, and the impact of mass culture which breeds a longing for material stuff at the expense of character and self-worth. Intelligently acted and directed, this independent venture doesn't say anything very startling, but it takes more pains to uncover the intricacies of what choices lead to potential happiness than many slickly-produced studio products about clashes between kids on different sides of the economic track.

It's achieved a certain notoriety as the first film to be digitally zapped into a major theater chain, but, though its not particularly innovative in form or content, it also deserves some kudos for not making its characters overly quirky or falsely flamboyant. It's about normal people--a single mother with a young teen daughter, never economically secure or emotionally stabilized. At a particularly tough moment, they are forced to move in with equally poor grandma, an immigrant who never came close to finding the American dream. It still glitters in all their minds--heavily promoted as it is by the greed and glitz pumped out on their TV screen--but the path to it is no yellow brick road: It doesn't exist, but must be built in tiny increments by inner will and a few touches of luck. Henri, the teenage girl, meeting a middle-class boy from a seemingly comfortable home, thinks she can grab on to better times easily if she just doesn't let on about how her family lives. But although the boy is well-meaning and their attraction to each other is real, she's grabbing at only the surface. When her eyes are finally opened to what lies behind his family's posh doors, she realizes home is what you make of it.

Abbie Land brings complete naturalness to all the girl's doubts and fears, and Noah Fleiss, though his role is less fully realized, is a convincing mixture of complexities. The cast surrounding them features seasoned actors who know how to elude the snags of cliché--Cara Seymour as the girl's mom whose opportunities have been stifled by hard luck and wrong choices; Gary Farmer as her casino worker boyfriend who knows how to get along through tough times; Mary Kay Place as the boy's mom, whose horizons have been narrowed by agoraphobia; Bruce Davison as her husband, who can't cope, despite his apparent bravado.

Too much music drowns the screen. It doesn't help to make the movie seem any hipper and adds a layer of superficiality to a well-told tale that should take pride in being simply ordinary. Starring Addie Land, Cara Seymour, Noah Fleiss, Gary Farmer, Lynn Cohen, Mary Kay Place and Bruce Davison. Directed and written by Enid Zentelis. Produced by Evan Kolodner, Yael Melamede, Norma Jean Straw and Enid Zentelis. An Evergreen Films release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for sexual content involving teenagers, and for language. Running time: 85 min.

Tags: Addie Land, Cara Seymour, Noah Fleiss, Gary Farmer, Lynn Cohen, Mary Kay Place, Bruce Davison, Enid Zentelis, Evan Kolodner, Yael Melamede, Norma Jean Straw, An Evergreen Films release, Drama, bravado, opportunities, seasoned, economically, emotional, glitters, family

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