DVD Review

Mania Grade: C-

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  • Disc Grade: D
  • Reviewed Format: DVD
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Stars: Hyrum Patterson, Dana Millican, Matt Gallagher, Karl T. Hirsch
  • Writer: Karl T. Hirsch
  • Director: Karl T. Hirsch
  • Distributor: Aglet Productions
  • Original Year of Release: 1997
  • Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
  • Extras: commentary by Karl T. Hirsch; short film "Karl's in a Coma"; theatrical trailers


Whatever pretty much sums it up

By Tony Whitt     June 15, 2002

Give a recent film school graduate a camera and a group of actors, and the result can be a surprisingly fresh and innovative piece of work. Or it can be something like GREEN, a film by Karl T. Hirsch available for rental only at Hollywood Video stores across the country. Time to renew that Blockbuster membership, methinks.

GREEN follows four recent college graduates living in Phoenix, Arizona who decide to try some mind-altering drugs one night - all they know about the drugs is that they're green (hence the title). As each one trips, they recall their failures and the problems that have brought them to this moment. Unfortunately, listening to one character talking to himself (literally) about his problems, listening to two characters deliver monologues about their problems, and watching one character relive her problems doesn't make for the most stimulating 83 minutes of watching.

The biggest problem with GREEN is that while we're obviously meant to have some sympathy for these characters who can't seem to make something of their lives, we're more often than not driven crazy by their self-indulgent whining. Hirsch's segment is the worst of the lot in addition to being the longest - but what would you expect from the man who not only directed this film but also produced it, wrote it, and provided music for it? Something a hell of a lot better than this, that's what you would expect. Instead we get a lengthy "comic" monologue about the wandering Dave's drive not to "suck" as he tries to find a career he's good at. Even though Dave doesn't add filmmaking to his list, perhaps Hirsch should cross it off his own. The segment featuring Ralph, played by Matthew Gallagher, is only better because it's shorter. Ralph can't commit to the girl he's in love with, so during his trip he talks to himself through the TV set and berates himself for not following his feelings. Deep, man, really deep.

The animated sequence featuring Eric, played by Hyrum Patterson, is at least interesting to watch, even if it's incredibly dull to listen to. Eric's particular "white man's burden" is that he has a college degree - the same one Dave has, in fact, seemingly because Hirsch has forgotten he already wrote this character - but he can't get that $100K job or the car he's always dreamt of. While we're entertained by Dave Long's frenetic animation, we can at least ignore the droning for a while.

The only sequence that has any sort of merit is the one featuring Joanna, played by Dana Millican. Unlike the other actors in this whine fest, Millican can actually act, and unlike the other characters, Joanna actually has a problem with which we can sympathize. She dreams of the perfect partner with whom she can fall blissfully in love, and every time she meets a man she tries to make him into that person. Unfortunately, she has the bad fortune of trying this with Ralph, Eric, and Dave, all of whom are as far from perfect as a man can get and still be sentient. Millican is without a doubt the best thing in GREEN, providing the film's few moments of genuine humor and pathos. Unfortunately, Hirsch goes and sabotages it all. It turns out Joanna has gotten the dangerous green pill that Eric was warned about by his dealer at the beginning of the film - the resulting trip to the ER could have provided a poignant coda to the entire film, but Hirsch's hamfisted handling of GREEN's final moments causes the pent-up tension to fizzle, and the movie ends with a thud.

GREEN was made over the course of three years while Hirsch raised the funds for it, and unfortunately the pacing (or lack thereof) makes us feel every month of them. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of promise in this film - Hirsch himself isn't a bad actor, and some scenes are far more moving than the script really allows them to be. But that promise isn't realized here.

Hirsch's commentary on this disc isn't quite as self-indulgent as the film itself is, thank goodness. Here's a guy who can acknowledge his mistakes, of which there are many. For film students, it provides an interesting primer on what to do when you're making a movie - and more importantly, what not to do. Another example of what not to do is the short film "Karl's in a Coma," also featured on the disc. It begins promisingly enough as Karl (played by Hirsch, naturally) is visited by relatives and friends while he's in a coma, after which he wakes up and tells us how "sweet" it is because of all the presents and apologies you get. At first it seems like Karl's doing some cool kind of soliloquy, as if the character is speaking to us from within his own mind - but then we find out he's just faking it for the gifts. It's a one-note joke that goes on way too long. That, and the trailers for this movie and a whole slew of others, are all the extra features there are on this disc. Not quite worth the price of admission, is it? It'll be worth watching Hirsch's career to see if he ever lives up to his potential and produces a film that's as good all the way through as the Joanna sequence here is - but if "Karl's in a Coma" is any indication, it'll be a long wait.

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