Vancouver Queer Film Festival: The Green dramatizes hidden prejudices of smalltown life
Weighing the pros and cons of big-city life versus smalltown charms can be rife with conflicted considerations for many people. But throw in foregoing openly supportive queer social spaces and networks—depending upon the location—and things get that much more complicated for those who aren't straight. Add a teacher's most dreaded nightmare into the mix, and you've got the dramatic feature The Green.
New York City couple Michael (Jason Butler Harner) and Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson) have successfully traded in the glam of the Big Apple for the green (which the title refers to) of coastal Connecticut. Michael is a devoted teacher at a private high school, and finds a best friend in Trish (Illeana Douglas), who is maintaining a brave face through chemotherapy. Meanwhile, Daniel runs a restaurant and catering business. But Michael's earnest efforts to reach out to a troubled student named Jason (Chris Bert) loosen the linchpin that protects the tranquility of their lives.
When Michael's attempt to protect Jason from being physically bullied is misinterpreted by his mother and her homophobic boyfriend, Michael and Daniel become embroiled in an tumultuous legal battle that threatens to obliterate everything they have. What was hidden behind a veneer of congeniality becomes exposed: relationships unravel in all directions, both of their livelihoods flatline, and Michael's past is painfully dredged up. It's a hellish situation that not only tests the limits of the town's tolerance but also Michael and Daniel's long-term relationship.
But it's not a one-sided affair: Paul Marcarelli's script supplies twists and turns for all involved, including Jason's family. Michael and Daniel's sole source of hope is a crackerjack defense attorney (Julia Ormond), who turns out to be a lesbian.
Well-rounded performances from Harner, Jackson, Ormond, and Douglas buoy the story. The increasingly complex dramatic developments are evenly handled by director Steven Williford, before veering somewhat off-key toward the end. Amid all the conflicts, the development of Jason's character, a pivotal figure in the story, tends to get lost in the shuffle. Overall, though, the film provides an engaging dramatization of a worst-case scenario faced by a gay couple forging their lives in uncharted territory.
The Vancouver Queer Film Festival presents The Green on Sunday (August 19) at 7 p.m. and Tuesday (August 21) at 7 p.m.