Movies showing poor but inwardly noble (or maybe just amoral) kids running around in a hopeless environment are a staple nowadays, the best way for a new director to announce that they are "serious." Green's main contribution to the genre is to remove all profanity from the streets. His stated reason was that this makes the kids (non-professional actors, of course) be smarter about what they say (improvised, allegedly). So now, whenever anyone says anything, they sound like they're being cued from off-camera by a director anxious to say "great" things. The resulting dialogue sounds like an excerpt from a pretentious, "poetic" socially conscious novel.
Visually, George Washington is an extraordinary feat. Debuting cinematographer Tim Orr somehow makes a decaying environment mesmerizing to watch at. Unfortunately, this somewhat glamorizes the situation. Virtually plotless, Green's movie deals with a group of friends in their early teens during summer vacation who have to deal with a tragic accident. Very slowly.
Green's characters exist in a world without context. No pop culture, nobody on the streets except for them, nothing going on except for their private lives. Kind of freaky. It's a self-contained universe. That's alarming. So is Green's belief that he's created something "important" - he has created a film with intriguing elements, enough to showcase his promise (the visuals, for starters, and a few select sequences). But if his next film is this pretentious and naive, we'll have to write him off as lost forever.
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