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Thu September 9, 2004
A fair representation of the "indie" spirit and a reminder of its limitations.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Single moms with teenage daughters are heroes for our times: They must be self reliant, tough, tender and suffer the slings and arrows of a culture that worships youth, which in the teen years is unremittingly disrespectful of the adults that made that culture possible.
Writer/director Enid Zentelis has a first feature, "Evergreen," which minimally shows some of that teenage rebellion but mostly gives a realistic and rarely obnoxious (Remember Holly Hunter's harried mom in "Thirteen"?) account of a mother Kate (Cara Seymour, "Adaptation") and her teen daughter, Henri (talented newcomer Addie Land) starting life again in Tulalip, Washington (filmed in Everett). Kate's vision for Henri says everything about the limits of poverty, the narrow field of expectation, and the accompanying deficiency of taste: "Someday you could manage a fancy department store."
Zentelis approaches clich? territory by showing how impoverished this couple is (Grandma's apartment leaks literal buckets) and how rich Henri's boyfriend, Chat (Noah Fleiss, "Bringing Rain") is (He drives a Jeep Cherokee). Both rich and poor display the stereotypes: the former wants out of poverty and the latter is corrupted by privilege. Yet the director never condescends to either, for she seems to respect their limitations: Kate has self image problems, and Henri is ashamed of their poverty (Shame accompanies most teens like acne anyway); Chat's mother, Susan (Mary Kay Place, "Sweet Home Alabama"), is agoraphobic and father, Frank (Bruce Davison, "Rules of the Game") an alcoholic.
The film delves not deeply into any of these characters while making a full study of the trappings and trials of wealth and poverty. It does, however, have a fully round character in Jim (Gary Farmer, "Adaptation"), a Native American casino dealer who sees better than anyone the goodness of Kate and Henri, though he knows Henri stole money from him and doesn't know that Kate stole liquor from Chat's parents. He is open and loving, perhaps the very spirit of the Pacific Northwest.
"Anywhere But Here," "Tumbleweeds," and the well-known "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" deal with the rambling mom and daughter. In each we can be reminded of Jane Erskine Stuart's notion that "in no order of things is adolescence the time of the simple life." "Evergreen" contributes a minimalist realism to the genre while missing crisp dialogue and general character development to make it stand out.
"Evergreen" is a fair representation of the "indie" spirit and a reminder of its limitations.
(This film is played only in AMC theaters through Digital Theater Distribution System [DTDS], which feeds directly from satellite, obviating the need for film reels. Our image was digital dull.)
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.