Judge Adam Arseneau's thumb is red.
A new sort of comedy.
A quirky coming-of-age comedy laden with money laundering, illegal growing operations, and dry Canadian wit, Everything's Gone Green makes its way to DVD after a minimalist theatrical run. Of particular note to literary hipsters is the screenplay, penned by quintessential "Generation X" novelist Douglas Coupland (Microserfs, Girlfriend in a Coma, All Families are Psychotic).
Facts of the Case
Ryan (Paulo Costanzo, Road Trip) is having a bad day. In the span of a few hours, his girlfriend kicks him out, his parents convince themselves they've won the lottery and then realize, horribly, they haven't, and he loses his crappy IT job. For a 29-year-old layabout, things are looking pretty grim.
Luckily, Ryan trips and falls into a new job with the British Columbia Lottery Board, writing articles about recent winners and taking photographs. His real estate agent brother lands him a choice apartment on the waterside in downtown Vancouver, and he meets a beautiful girl named Ming (Steph Song, War, Dragon Boys) who captures his fancy. At first, Ryan is at first troubled by her sleazy boyfriend Bryce (JR Bourne, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), who fills his head with notions of capitalist values filtered through competitive Darwinism. Bryce is a sleaze, but he has a great car, a great job designing golf courses, and a beautiful girlfriend. Maybe he's onto something.
Ryan reinvents himself in spirit to live on the edge and, almost overnight, his life takes a surreal twist. His best friend, proprietor of a successful dairy business, in actually runs the largest underground marijuana growing operation in town, opening "franchise" locations across the city—the newest of which is located in Ryan's parent's basement. Ryan himself begins laundering money from the Japanese mafia via Bryce, who buys winning lottery tickets from Ryan's interviewees at a 10 percent premium, affording Ryan a lavish lifestyle of Mustangs and leather jackets. For Ryan, everything has gone green, so why does he feel so unfulfilled?
Everything's Gone Green is a refreshing surprise; a mid-life crisis comedy suffered by a twenty-to-thirty-something generation unsure of their place in the grand scheme of things. Tugged at in equal parts by unrealized creative ambitions and dreams, pure consumerist greed, and the apathetic laziness born of a problem-free existence, the characters in Everything's Gone Green personify a generation of well-to-do materialists who yearn to "be real" in life, but still have enough money to buy that iPod and flat-screen television. Their lives are a walking contradiction of popular culture and good-natured rebellion, both sympathetic and ironic at the same time. It's hard to know whether to feel bad for them, laugh at them, or give them a good-natured shove for being so clueless.
Fans of novelist Douglas Coupland will be thrilled by what they find here; Everything's Gone Green is like seeing his novels come to life on the big screen. Witty, poignantly insightful and just a bit sarcastic, the characters trudge their way out of the swirling pool of Canadiana, popular culture, apathy, adolescent fear of maturity, and all the other good bits we've come to expect form Coupland's writing. Suffice it to say, the screenplay is excellent; his style translates surprisingly well to screen, balancing off-kilter comedy with surprising amounts of introspection and emotion. The humor is certainly shadowy at times, but too easygoing and lighthearted to be considered "black"; too inherently inoffensive and—for lack of a dirtier word—Canadian.
Though Everything's Gone Green is billed as a "slacker comedy," Ryan is no more a slacker than any other person I've ever met between the age of 25 to 29—an "adult" in all legal terms but still struggling to find meaning and purpose in life. The appeal of finding a company to work for, putting 35 years of one's life into it, and retiring with a gold watch (the way our parents did) is as unappealing to this generation as it is to the fathers forced into retirement, reflecting on their lives and the missed opportunities, and this anxiety drives all the characters in Everything's Gone Green to test the waters and come up with viable alternatives. Ryan is fearful of making this commitment to corporate life, but mature enough to realize how good it feels to have a semi-steady paycheck, and he (like most) finds himself working "jobs" in favors of "careers," comforted by the notion that he could quit his job at any time and get on a plane to Japan, or do something wild and crazy. The dreams of youthful abandonment are fiercely clung to by this generation, with a desperate unwillingness to throw one's self into the cogs of the machine.
The word "green" takes on multiple connotations in this film, all examined and applied laboriously to Ryan as he makes his way through his changing life. As a 29-year-old slacker, green is the color of money. Green is the color of the world he inhabits, living in the lush and scenic Vancouver. Green is the pot-growing operations that suddenly invade his life, through his best friend and (eventually) his parents. Green is the color of his envy as he finds himself in awe of Bryce's lifestyle and erstwhile theories about capitalistic Darwinism, despite his better judgment. Green is the color of working at the lottery corporation, watching the glee and exuberance flood the faces of new lottery winners. Green is the color of his complexion when he sets his scam into motion, laundering money through said job. Ultimately, green is the color of his naiveté, realizing that his endless pursuit towards green ends up taking him further away from the things he truly wants, and from the person he desires to be. It's quite the clever title, really.
Ryan finds his new job surprisingly elating, capturing the wild abandon and unadulterated joy new lottery winners experience after coming into money, at least at first. Later, he revisits the winners, only to find that once the magic of being "blessed" wears off, the money itself brings no happiness—in fact, for most, it only precipitates a general downward spiral of their lives into unhappiness. Ryan himself takes part in this slide into unhappiness with his growing cynicism in the world around him. Seeing his parents start up a grow op with his best friend, seeing the girl of his dreams paired up with an opportunistic sleaze, he rages against the reality of modern living—that everyone at some level is involved in a scam. Nobody is real, nobody is creative for the sake of creativity; everyone is scheming and trying to make fast, easy money, ride on the backs of everyone else, and put their own selfish desires before the common good of society. In the face of financial liquidity and apathy, Ryan gets himself good and corrupted, but hey, don't feel too bad, as one character tells him casually during the film—it happens to us all eventually.
In the end, Everything's Gone Green is surprisingly profound and sweet, far more than one would expect it to ever be. Its observations about the world will find particular resonance with those of a similar age to its protagonists, struggling to find their footing in the world without sacrificing their ideals that separate them from their parents. One saying that comes to mind is, "thirty is the new twenty," and for myself personally, I find this to be apt and true. Everything's Gone Green sings a swan song dedicated to the last of the Generation Xers finding their place in the world, such as it is; a tale both hilariously ironic and bittersweet. Ultimately, Ryan finds his answers, and they are immeasurably satisfying.
The technical presentation is decent, with a clean image, good black levels, and no noticeable defects. Colors are vibrant, especially greens (surprise, surprise). For a low-budget shoot, the film looks quite good. Both a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo track are included, and do the job with minimal fuss. The 5.1 track is nicer, with richer bass, sharper detail and clearer dialogue, but the film overall often betrays its low-budget roots with its on-site audio recording fidelity.
For a single-disc release, we get a solid amount of extra material. A commentary track with director Paul Fox and writer Douglas Coupland is the primary feature—the two are relaxed and informative, discussing the pleasure in bringing the film to life, though the fidelity of the audio recording is sub-par, surprisingly so. Brittle and transparent, it hurts the ears. A photo gallery with photographer Lincoln Clarkes displays the incredible photographs exhibited throughout the film by Ryan's character, and a "Video Pop-Ups" section shows five minutes of film footage with VH1 Pop-Up Video-style factoids jumping up on-screen. It's silly, but surprisingly effective in cramming in all kinds of interesting tidbits about the cast, crew, and production. A Musicology section lists all the independent Canadian bands who contributed music to the film (standouts: Sloan, Final Fantasy, Do Make Say Think, Raised By Swans, Caribou, The Fembots, The Deadly Snakes, and more) as well as, um, well, a "Special Brownie Recipe," which is exactly like it sounds. Toss in some trailers, a poster gallery, and about four minutes of deleted scenes, and we're done.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
How can a slacker comedy be existential, you might ask? It can't, because this isn't a slacker comedy, dammit. The problem here is one of bad marketing. Visual Entertainment seems to be promoting the film as nothing more than a teen slacker comedy, and this does Everything's Gone Green a serious disservice. People are going to take a look at the gigantic "slacker" and "unrated" logo and snap this title up, expecting something with Tom Green in it or a crass comedy like American Pie or Roadtrip. These people, if not already passed out drunk on the frat couch, will be pissed off.
Consider: the film has a 95-minute running time, exactly the same running time as the film's R-rated theatrical release. It stands to reason that if scenes made it back into this version of Everything's Gone Green (the material "too outrageous for theaters," as the packaging proudly festoons) such scenes are about six seconds long. I counted a grand total of one sex joke with a mild amount of sexual-themed content in it, a scene in of itself barely racier than Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.
"Unrated" in its pejorative sense has lost all meaning in the world of DVD reviews, diluted and appropriated by the cogs of the cinematic marketing machine, affixed onto every label imaginable, whether appropriate or not. Where it once had substance and meaning and implied something edgy and risqué, it essentially means nothing now. Case in point, there is nothing remotely controversial about Everything's Gone Green, not even in the slightest.
This is a great film worth appreciating, but the people who will be exposed to it I fear will be wholly unprepared for its low-key quirky brand of comedy, expecting something with a lot more fart jokes, topless chicks, and embarrassing sexual apropos. Misleading marketing just pisses me right off.
A wholly Canadian comedy in its charming sensibilities, Everything's Gone Green is both heartwarming and digestible, an existential comedy about Douglas Coupland's favorite generation of slackadasical layabouts slowly coming to terms with life, the universe, and everything in between. If you like your comedies dry, wry, and laden with irony and introspection, then Green will be your new favorite color.
The court finds the film not guilty. This judge gathered some very interesting ideas as to retirement financial management from this film, and is off to put them into practice. In his basement. With some hydroponics.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Fox and Director Douglas Coupland
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