7 October 2007 | Buddy-51
gently tweaking the Cult of Easy Money
Shot in beautiful British Columbia, the low-budget Canadian import, "Everything's Gone Green," is not, as the title might suggest, yet another Al Gore environmental documentary, but rather a witty, incisive meditation on how we choose to define "success" in the modern world.
Ryan is a 29-year-old Vancouver resident whose life is going nowhere fast. In one day alone, he gets dumped by his girlfriend, is fired from his job and discovers that his family HASN'T won the million dollar jackpot that his father mistakenly believed they had. The one ray of sunshine to come out of all of this is that Ryan is offered a job working for the lottery commission, a position he only halfheartedly accepts, but one which eventually leads him to think long and hard about what it is he truly wants out of life.
When we first meet him, Ryan is a man deeply bored and unhappy with his life but utterly unsure of how to go about changing it. On the one hand, he dreads the prospect of devoting decades of his life to a tedious, unfulfilling job, yet, on the other, he finds himself yearning to join his boyhood chums already comfortably ensconced in the great middle class. Ryan must figure out if achieving financial success will require a total abandonment of youthful idealism or if there is some way to retain one's principles and still have all the material wealth he could possibly want. Indeed when he takes a good look at all the people around him - be they his slacker buddy, the yuppie boyfriend of the girl he's fallen for, the lottery winners he is forced to interview, or even his very own parents - he discovers that they have all found ways to make ends meet without having to work very hard at it. And what does it really matter if those folks have to break a law or two or indulge in some shady and immoral enterprise to get their hands on some cash? It's all part of the lure of Easy Money and the cult-like addiction that comes along with it. It's only when Ryan decides to get a little of his own in the same way that his real crisis of character begins.
Douglas Coupland has written a smart, thoughtful script that finds humor in the off-kilter incongruities of daily life: Ryan's being the sole occupant of an otherwise empty, multi-story skyscraper; his clean-cut, retirement-age parents being arrested for farming pot in the family basement; his love interest whose job as a movie set designer is to make Vancouver, Canada look like any part of the world other than Vancouver, Canada (in a very clever swipe at "runaway" American film-making). Director Paul Fox brings an offbeat sensibility to the material without overemphasizing the "quirkiness" factor, as so many other independent filmmakers are wont to do. The atmosphere is heightened to be sure, but he is also careful to keep the story and the comedy sufficiently grounded in the real world so we can more easily identify with the characters.
As Ryan, Paulo Costanzo may not have conventional movie-star looks but he has an openness and a regular-guy appeal that make him a compelling lead for this movie. He is matched by the lovely Steph Song as the girl who has made some compromises of her own in her lifetime but who has the intestinal fortitude and good sense to pull herself back from the abyss before she hurls right on over it. JR Bourne could easily have turned his amoral yuppie character into little more than a two-dimensional Waspy villain, but instead he makes him both sad and strangely likable at one and the same time. Finally, Susan Hogan and Tom Butler steal any number of scenes as Ryan's late-blooming, dope-growing parents.
Old-fashioned in its message and theme, yet utterly modern in its style and tone, "Everything's Gone Green" admonishes us in a lighthearted and playful way to heed that long-established warning that money can indeed not buy happiness. It's nice to be reminded of that every once in awhile.