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Snow Angels (A Movie Review)


Starring Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Angarano, Jeanetta Arnette, Griffin Dunne, Amy Sedaris, Olivia Thirlby, Nicky Katt, Tom Noonan, Connor Paolo and Leah Ostry.

Screenplay by David Gordon Green.

Directed by David Gordon Green.

Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures. 106 minutes. Rated R.

If you are prone to depression, then Snow Angels may not be good for your mental state.

It is a truly pitch-black film – even though most of the running time the streets of the tiny town it surveys are covered with a thick blanket of white snow. Life in the world the film portrays goes steadily from bad to worse to tragic with an inexorable logic and inevitability.

Of course, tragedy makes for great drama (just ask William Shakespeare) and Snow Angels mostly earns its tears.

Snow Angels centers around a young small-town band geek named Arthur (Michael Angarano), but it is not really his story. He plays a significant part in it, mind you, but it is more about Arthur learning from the problems and pain of people around him.

The first people are closest to home – Arthur's middle-aged college professor father (Griffin Dunne) decides to sow his wild oats and moves out of their beautiful upper-middle-class home, leaving the mother so that he can shack up in a small apartment with a female colleague.

Arthur falls in love with Lila, a nerdy girl at the school – though Olivia Thirlby, who also played Juno's cheerleader best friend – isn't exactly a nerdess. Thirlby does a wonderful job in the role, but you can't help but notice that she is obviously gorgeous, even when dressed down in shapeless sweaters and cat's-eye glasses.

Arthur works at a local Chinese restaurant. Also working there is Annie (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful but damaged thirty-something mother who has recently split from her husband Glen (Sam Rockwell). Glen's life has been a series of drinking and mental problems in recent years.

You can tell by the way he looks at her that Arthur still has a serious crush on Annie, who had been his childhood babysitter – in fact, he seems to hold off Lila for a while in vain hope that something could come of his relationship with Annie. Annie is also willing to flirt with the young man, because she likes the attention, and frankly that is the only way that Annie knows how get a reaction with men. In fact, Annie has fallen into a sordid affair with the husband (Nicky Katt) of her best friend (Amy Sedaris).

Glen is trying to win his way back into the life of Annie and their daughter. He assures them that he has found God, found a job and been sober for six months. Annie is understandably skeptical. The problem is, almost the entire time we see him, Glen is obviously horribly damaged. We never see any of what drew the couple together in the first place – to the extent where at one point when Annie suddenly waxes nostalgic about how there had once been love in the relationship, it is almost hard to believe. Except for one short scene in which he sincerely seems to be trying to be there for his ex, you want to shake Annie and tell her to run – not walk – as far away from her crazy ex-husband as she can. Not that Annie is so pure either. She can be mean, vindictive, needy, selfish and has a blazing hot temper.

All of these fragile lives are pushed to the limit when a random and terrible act of violence intrudes on the little circle – drawing even the satellite characters into the vortex of swirling doubt and emotion.

Some of the people are destroyed by the act. Others are able to find the strength to fix their own messed-up lives after realizing how short life really is. Others just carry on in their same dead-end path.

The audience can see no good coming down the pike, and yet that does not completely prepare you for the relentlessly and horrifically bleak ending. Snow Angels is a very well-made and worthy film, but it can be really hard to watch.

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: February 26, 2008.


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