Picks and Pans Review: Green Card

Andie MacDowell, Gérard Depardieu

Silly and obvious as this romantic comedy is (and its script would have seemed dated in 1942), it might have mustered a considerable charm if Depardieu had been better matched in his first American film.

The French actor is not so much a hunk as a lump. But behind that meaty face and neo-William Bendix demeanor flash glimpses of shrewdness and wit. Playing a composer who marries an American woman just to gain U.S. residency (and the green card that symbolizes resident status), he often seems clumsy and dense, but he does have a way of looking up, alerted, that suggests a water buffalo whose curiosity has been aroused.

Next to him, however, is MacDowell, as the Manhattan horticulturist who agrees to marry Depardieu so she can live in a ritzy apartment building where single people are unwelcome. True, she doesn’t have a lot to work with. Her name, for one thing is Bronte Parrish—her father is supposed to have named all his children after great writers (fortunately for her, he wasn’t a Solzhenitsyn fan). She has to say such things as, “You stroll around my apartment, touching my things. Do you really know what trouble you’ve gotten me into? Do you?”

But the fact is MacDowell doesn’t seem to have been acting when she was so chilly and unresponsive in sex, lies and videotape. Here, when she’s trying to be lovable and eyeball-rolling, gosh-all cute, she’s still as stiff and inexpressive as if she treated her face with starch, not to mention looking as painfully false and artificial as one of those Vogue cover girls she once was. When, lamenting the plight of some disadvantaged children she works with, she says, “They live with chaos…despair,” it comes across as a laugh line.

The script, by director Peter (Dead Poets Society) Weir, includes all the predictable setbacks between the time MacDowell and Depardieu get married in businesslike fashion and the time they realize—with light bulbs turning on in their eyes—that they’re really crazy about each other. Weir doesn’t help himself by casting the colorless Gregg (Crimes and Misdemeanors) Edelman as MacDowell’s boyfriend—not meeting real resistance anywhere, Depardieu often seems to be just floundering. And the Immigration and Naturalization Service case against the couple—a bureaucracy ex machina if ever there was one—just clunks into the middle of the story and idles.

By the end, when the stereotypically stuffy INS agent, Ethan Phillips, is packing Depardieu off to France, it seems like a blessing—and you wonder if there might not be a way to deport MacDowell back to South Carolina while he’s at it. (PG-13)

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