Stars: Gerard Depardieu, Andie MacDowell, Bebe Neuwirth, Gregg Edelman
Director: Peter Weir
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Screenplay)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars
The romantic comedies of the 1990’s, with a shy, innocent young woman (she might not be a virgin, but she’s hardly defined by sex) and the unconventionally attractive men that are polar opposites to her and yet are exactly what they’re looking for don’t exist anymore. I’m not sure what exactly caused the change, but the 90’s Rom-Com queens (Bullock, Roberts, Ryan, to a lesser extent MacDowell, Barrymore, & Diaz), are a bygone era as we know have the sensitive guy at the center of the Rom-Com being an average-looking guy (Judd Apatow's entire filmography) or the female at the center is trying desperately not to fall in love but at least get laid (see Amy Schumer, Kristin Wiig). As a result, visiting Green Card for the first time felt rather quaint-a throwback to an era that doesn’t exist but that I grew up with; however, sadly the film itself never really goes beyond nostalgia as it feels deeply paint-by-numbers and dated even for a type-of-film that no one makes anymore.
(Spoilers Ahead) The movie centers around Bronte (MacDowell, and really, who has the name Bronte?), and George (Depardieu), two people that decide to use each other by getting married randomly for their mutual benefit, but not because of love. After all, Bronte needs a husband to get her dream apartment (seriously-who in Manhattan has an apartment like that with its own greenhouse, even in a movie?!?), and George needs a green card to stay in the country. In a pre-Trump era, it comes as a surprise and not an inevitability to George & Bronte that they will have to prove that they are in love, and not just using the situation for their advantage, and after a disastrous interview with INS, they start living together to learn each other’s habits and tics, to pass the INS follow-up interview which will decide if George will stay in the country and if Bronte will stay out of jail.
If you don’t know how this ends, congratulations on never seeing a movie-you’re going to enjoy them, and they get better from here. Obviously their mutual disdain for each other blossoms into something real, and by the end of the movie George might be getting deported but the marriage has, ironically, become real. The opposites attract trope is tried-and-true, one that audiences tend to love, but I have to say here it feels a bit forced. Forget for a second that the film’s 27-year-old status means that we’ve got some moments that wouldn’t fly today (George boorishly berating Bronte’s boyfriend is meant to be romantic, but comes across as possessive to modern audiences), as there’s a larger problem-MacDowell and Depardieu have very little chemistry. Neither of them is able to make the jump as to why these characters should fall in love, and while they have a lovely set of separate interviews, when they’re together it feels too stiff. He’s too unambitious for a woman of her nature, and she’s far too rigid and snobbish for him to ever put up with. It feels more like they’d have a physical connection rather than an emotional one, but the movie rushes the final scene so that we can’t see which is which. It’s hard to imagine their relationship works past the closing credits, quite frankly, but they leave hugging and kissing, much to the astonishment of the INS inspector.
The movie received a sole Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay in a year that was lacking them, though part of me wonders if this nod was an afterglow citation for Peter Weir, who had had a popular movie with AMPAS the year before in Dead Poets Society, but had gone home empty-handed. That wouldn’t explain the overwhelming success the film had at the Golden Globes, though, as it won Best Picture and Actor, in the process taking out mammoth hits like Ghost, Pretty Woman, and Home Alone. Ghost, in particular, it’s hard to really see how it lost, and one wonders (cheekily) if a room full of foreign journalists might have liked the idea of a beautiful American woman falling in love with an overweight European man. Either way, the script is pretty basic-nothing special is happening here, and no molds are being set. It’s just a standard-issue 90’s rom-com in terms of the writing, and it’s hindered by a lack of spark between the two leads.