Green Card is one of my favorite movies ever. Yes, everyone knows I'm a sucker for a good script, a beautiful girl, and a hunky guy, but this movie is so much more than that. It's a story of the American Dream, a testament to opposites attracting, and a thoughtful argument about law and order. It can spark a political debate, give even the most cynical spinster hope for love, and make an unsuspecting fan of the romantic comedy genre. Peter Weir's script-loosely based on 1989's The Paper Wedding, but oddly enough nominated for Best Original Screenplay by the Academy Awards-will make you laugh and reach for a Kleenex. He wrote it as an American debut for French superstar Gérard Depardieu, who at that time had a Best Actor César award and nine additional nominations, a Venice Film Festival award for Best Actor, and BAFTA nomination under his belt.
What a debut! He's so charming, so magnetic, so sensitive, it's impossible to dislike him. Weir's screenplay allowed for a mixture of French and English so Gérard could focus on his talent rather than a language barrier, and the result is pure magic. He plays a character similar to his real-life persona: someone incredibly generous and loving, trying to start a new chapter of his life in America, and far more sensitive than people suspect. So, when you're falling in love with his on-screen portrayal, it's safe to say you're also falling in love with him as a person. It's no wonder he's one of my favorite celebrity boyfriends.
On to the story, although with all that praise, you're probably anxious to rent a copy already, right? Andie MacDowell is a horticulturalist, and she wants to take up the lease of a beautiful apartment in New York with a neglected greenhouse. The apartment complex is only interested in renting to a married couple. Gérard Depardieu is a Frenchman looking to stay in America without applying for citizenship. Through a mutual friend, Andie and Gérard marry then part ways to pursue their own dreams. When immigration comes calling, they have to scramble around to pretend they're really married. Don't worry if you have a strong opposition to marriages of conveniences. As Andie's lawyer, Robert Prosky has a great line: "It's called breaking the law. Now, no matter how trivial it may have seemed to you at the time, that's what you've done." This is not a one-sided movie; it doesn't bombard you with a point of view it thinks you should have.
Every detail is important, ensuring that you'll get more out of the movie every time you watch it, which is one of the greatest signs of a good movie. In the kitchen, there's a brief close-up of Gérard fiddling with a garlic bulb. His fingers try to pry a clove out gently, nervously, and when his initial attempt doesn't work, he resorts to what he knows works for him and presses the heel of his hand forcefully against the bulb. One of the immigration agents, Ethan Phillips, asks an innocuous question, "May I use your bathroom?" because he knows it will make or break the interview. When Andie puts on her wedding ring before the interview, she struggles, to show she hasn't worn it in a long time.
From the get-go, Andie and Gérard have beautiful on-screen chemistry, even when their characters haven't figured it out yet. She's structured, he's spontaneous; she likes Muesli and decaffeinated coffee, he likes traditional French cooking; she's uptight, he's laid-back. When they pull together, the audience can see they bring out the best in each other, which is more than most opposites-attract romances do. When obstacles appear, whether small as in a flirty friend, Bebe Neuwirth, medium as in Andie's parents showing up at her apartment unexpectedly, or large as in the immigration issue, the script takes the audience through each hurdle smoothly, showing that this couple is so solidly matched, they can handle anything. They may have different reasons for doing what they're doing, but as Andie's dad, Conrad McLaren, summarizes, "We suddenly found ourselves in the same boat."
You've got to watch this movie. Whether it's because you love Andie MacDowell, you're anxious to hear Gérard speak English, or you're an awards groupie and want to see why it won Golden Globe awards for Best Picture and Best Actor in the comedic genres, you've got to watch it. Do yourself a favor and buy a DVD copy so you can watch it over and over again like I do. Every time I watch it, I'm instantly put in a better mood. It just doesn't get any better than Andie handing Gérard a hammer and saying, "Okay, do some handyman things!" It just doesn't get any better than Gérard saying more with one eyebrow raise than most actors say in an entire monologue. It just doesn't get any better than Green Card.