Idol Chatter

snowangelsDavidGordonGreen.jpgFor the record: David Gordon Green wants you to be surprised. So if you’re planning to see his target=”_blank”>adaptation of “Snow Angels,” wait until after you’ve left the theater to read Stewart O’Nan’s novel, which discloses a key plot point on the fourth page. This device works in the literary framework but will, according to Gordon Green, lead audience members to anticipate a very different film.
“You’ll just think it’s a horror movie or something,” says Gordon Green, who has also helmed indies “George Washington” and “All the Real Girls.” “It’s a peaceful moment of surrender rather than some violent act: they’re going to be together somewhere else.” In “Snow Angels,” a triptych of love stories set in an appropriately snowbound town, teenagers Arthur (Michael Angarano) and Lila (Olivia Thirlby) fall in love. Meanwhile, Arthur’s parents (Griffin Dunne and Jeanetta Arnette) file for divorce, and Arthur’s former babysitter Annie (Kate Beckinsale) wrangles through mixed feelings with her born-again husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell).
Stewart O’ Nan’s book parallels couples falling in love and out of love. You bring falling in love to the foreground.
When you’re going through something tough remind yourself of something smooth. It gives you a perspective on where Glenn and Annie are going. There was a point when these guys truly loved each other. She dedicated her life to someone she thought was right. It’s not like she’s an idiot, she’s smart. But people are dynamic and change. You can start with the best of intentions and the most optimism and goodness of heart, but if chemistry evolves to become off, it’s time to go.

Do you think Glenn’s religion or fanaticism affected the disintegration of his relationship with Annie?
I don’t think it did. The relationship started disintegrating so he started reaching for a support group.
Sam Rockwell met with a Jesuit priest in preparation for the role. Did you do similar research while adapting the novel or shooting the film?
I just know a lot of people. I went to a Jesuit high school for a year and saw a lot of different people processing religion in fascinating ways – some healthy, some not. All religions are totally amazing to me, how people can have blind faith or not blind faith. How people can make financial commitments to an organization based on alleviating fear. I talk to a lot of people who have a lot of different theories and theologies.
One of the fascinating things about Glenn, one of the things that Sam and I talked about a lot, is he’s a character who is not happy. And I think for any religion to work you’ve got to be happy and independent and strong as an individual before, so you can bring the awareness and strength to an organization. A lot of the danger comes when you’re looking for outside sources to make you happy.
Then it’s a crutch.
Right. It’s not like you have a confident, stable mindset and you find a God or a group or a spirituality or a feeling you can identify with. It’s saying, “maybe if I grab onto something it will help me pull myself up.”
Do you think about actors you want to cast while you’re writing?
I think about people I know. In movies like “Snow Angels” and “All the Real Girls” we’re embracing clichés. And in doing that you avoid making it feel like it’s every other story out there. (Then) you can take those clichés for what they’re worth – the values of traditional narrative structure and universal identification – you can take something that’s so specific emotionally it overcomes all that.
What you would do in similar situations?
So often we deal with sadness and heartbreak and joys in our own non-discussed manner. I think going through emotional journeys with strangers is a very valuable part of the process. Arthur’s mom talks about how ‘it’s important to feel through this.” So many people, especially in American culture, close the door on it. I had a friend who got dumped by a girl he dated for several months in an email. Go in a room! Talk about it, talk about it with strangers, get their perspective on it.
Is there a movie that particularly influenced you?
There’s a movie called “Testament,” from the early eighties. It will blow your mind. Netflix it tomorrow. And don’t read about, don’t know anything about it, don’t take phone calls, watch it by yourself. Unless you can get a crowd of strangers together, it will just be distracting.
–written by Jenny Halper

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