George Washington

on October 27, 2000 by Bridget Byrne
As poetry is to prose, so is this move to most other current offerings. Writer-director David Gordon Green has crystallized the hopes and sorrows of a nation's children in the lives of a quintet of youngsters living in an apparent wasteland. But far from exploiting the problems of marginal America, as Hollywood is wont to do, Green listens well and looks kindly and discovers beauty in an underclass world that popular culture too easily dismisses. The kids of his story are good kids, even when they do wrong. The adults are good adults, even when they do wrong. But the adult lives, from which the kids should and must draw their aspirations, are blighted, and the disease is catching, despite all the imagination, joy and intelligence innate in the youngsters.

   That's the sad part--help is not offered, not available. The kids must find their own way. It's a struggle. What is the secret of happiness? Will it come from love, from laughter, from personal heroism, from escape, from breaking the rules? There is no map; these unsupervised youngsters, both black and white, must wend their way, just as they do hanging out together in the fringe of an unidentified North Carolina town, where urban decay, prey to nature's forces, creates a unique playground as full of danger and delight as any fictional adventure story.

   Green has allowed his inexperienced actors to act natural, like the friends they are who ultimately share a tragedy and a secret. He doesn't force the plot; stuff just happens. People react, but they never overreact as they would in a more conventionally structured film. Green never falls into the trap of exploring issues that are not viable to the main concern which is to reveal worth too glibly ignored in the rush for the false contentments too much of America covets.

   Tim Orr's photography has the elegance and sophistication of art, but is never indulgent. Like the whole tone of the movie, it is focused on drawing on true beauty which lies not just on the surface but within.

   The movie belongs to the kids, particularly Donald Holden as the off-kilter George and Candace Evanofski as the fetching Nasia. But the adult actors, including George's sad and dangerous uncle, played by Eddie Rouse, also evoke a sense of how much better life might be if people understood how to express and live out the full meaning of the love innate within them. Starring Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Curtis Cotton III, Damian Jewan Lee and Rachael Handy. Directed and written by David Gordon Green. Produced by David Gordon Green, Sacha W. Mueller and Lisa Muskat. A Cowboy release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 90 min.

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