Snow Angels shouldn’t have happened. And perhaps if the critical community had initially called David Gordon Green out on his sub-Malick bullshit (the terribly inflated George Washington, All the Real Girls), it wouldn’t have. But now it’s too late. We’re saddled with one more post-American Beauty lives-of-quiet- (or, more often, histrionically loud) desperation melodrama, and with all the cultural machinery behind DGG, we’re actually going to be told to take it seriously.
Trading his usual heat-glazed southern locales for novelist Stewart O’Nan’s wintry middle-class Pennsylvania, Green loses all dramatic footing in comparing a triptych of relationships: puppy love between alterna high schoolers Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby (he plays the trombone, she dons glasses); Angarano’s newly separated parents, Jeanetta Arnette and Griffin Dunne; and longer-separated couple Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. Overcompensating for the narrative flab of the first two stories — we never get to know the parents; Angarano and Thirlby merely giggle and brush the hair from each other’s eyes — Rockwell’s cracked, still-in-love born again unfortunately sets the tone of his, flailing through a series of emotional breakdowns and drunken outbursts, instigating a predictable tragedy that seems to take seven hours to build up.
More remarkable than Snow Angels’ sheer ponderousness — think also: languid photography — is that Green still can’t invent a credible conversation. Ignore the phony “naturalistic” working class talk, even emphasize Green’s first-time adaptation work here if you must, there’s just no defending the contrived tics and hesitations he continually forces his actors to condescendingly affect. Mumblecore has nothing on Green’s slightly more cinematic falseness.