One of the curiosities of films that focus on gays and/or lesbians, especially considering the trend of growth the genre is seeing, is that audiences are going to be asking themselves if the fact that these characters are homosexual is actually doing any work. I’m not sure they should be asking that question (and I’m not sure they shouldn’t), but I know they’re going to be. When it doesn’t seem that this question is legitimately answered affirmatively, it can make the film a strange experience. This is all the more true when it seems the filmmakers expect the answer to be an obvious, “yes.”
The Green focuses on Michael (Jason Butler Harner) and his partner Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson), who moved to smallish town Connecticut to get away from the big city life in New York. Michael is a school teacher, and Daniel has set up shop as a caterer/event planner (I think). They’ve been together some fifteen years, and though Daniel was perhaps not quite so keen when it came to their relocation scheme, life seems to be working out pretty well.
Everything begins to unravel, however, when Michael is accused of inappropriate conduct with one of his students. Not only does Michael get suspended, but the aftermath of the mere accusation begins to tear apart everything in Michael and Daniel’s life, and the small town isn’t particularly friendly towards the couple anymore. Contract don’t want to work on their house, customers start to cancel the affairs they’ve lined up through Daniel’s business, and that’s just for starters. Meanwhile, Michael is trying to figure out how to stay out of jail, despite the fact that he isn’t completely sure an actual accusation has been made exactly, and now that he’s being investigated, some secrets he’s been keeping from Daniel rear their ugly heads as well.
The couple and a few key friends try to figure out how to make it through the mess, and Michael remains concerned for the student that was doing so well only a few short months ago, and through it all, tempers flare and personality conflicts get thrown out of proportion in the way that only such a massive attack on one’s character can bring about.
The plot itself plays out, more or less, exactly as you’d expect every step of the way, but the fact is only mildly problematic. The effort is really more playing the thing out, than the formulation of any new spins or twists, and it’s the character creation and expression that drives us along.
That said, as I hinted at earlier, there comes a point when the sexuality question begins to nag at you as a viewer. Those that keep an eye on the media at all surely know that when it comes to ignorant, knee-jerk reactions, and the full-blown ostracism of anyone accused of any kind of “inappropriate touching” of minors, we have found the arena in which homosexuals and heterosexuals enjoy equality. This, together with the overall impression that the “ultimate” truth of our scenario is rather obvious, and the fact that apart from the sexuality issue, this doesn’t strike as being anything we haven’t seen before, make for a curious viewing experience.
In the end, there are some fine performances here, especially by the leads, but there is some richness of purpose that seems lacking. As I said, it’s a struggle to find the real “work” that the sexuality inherent in the film is doing, and it seems that the film intends that it be doing some.
Still, that curiosity aside, The Green is on solid ground when it comes to the level of craft at work, and for all that it may seem that there would be little subtlety to such a situation, it is the small moments (even if they involve shouting) of human interaction that pull you in and make the film what it is. I would lean toward the idea that the homosexuality is in a certain sense irrelevant, being only the story of two people who happen to be gay, and the final result might have a stronger overall effect, but I don’t have the impression that is the way the film is leaning.