Fireworks Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films Official
Director: Joel Hershman
Producers: Travis Swords, Daniel J Victor, Trudie Styler
Written by: Joel Hershman
Cast: Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelley, Natasha
out of 5
GREENFINGERS-British for what we Americans call
a green thumb-is a satisfying, smart, funny, oddball romantic
comedy about British criminals rehabilitated through competitive
gardening. It stars Clive Owen of CROUPIER and fine British
veteran Helen Mirren ("Prime Suspect"), both in
outstanding performances. Inspired by a newspaper article
recounting true gardening exploits of British prisoners, this
most British of films was written and directed by American
Joel Hershman with great affection, comedic deftness, and
fine use of English locations, actors, and crew. Part farce,
part fractured fable, part satire, part love story, GREENFINGERS
is England in the sunshine-the England of great buildings,
great gardens, and, yes, great silliness.
Although main character Colin Briggs (Owens) neither wants
nor expects to ever leave prison, he is selected for the
special experimental "open prison" at Edgefield
(actually the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music in Surrey),
which is more a small English village, really, than a prison,
brimming with English characters we can readily recognize
and care about. Colin's new roommate Fergus, a bearded,
and bereted old Merlin, gives the discouraged young man
seeds which explode in spring into unexpectedly beautiful
double violets, renewing Colin's sense of wonder. The possibility
of unexpected beauty eventually infects everyone in the
crew. The prison gardeners gain the attention of media garden
maven Georgina Woodhouse (Mirren), who champions them straight
into the most famous garden show of all, the Hampton Court
Palace Flower Show.
The mood of the film is sunny, bright, colorful, and engaging;
and the look is rich and abundant with flowers against vibrant
dark green foliage, great architecture, landscape, costumes.
There's probably more sun in this movie than most Brits
see in a year. The production design is excellent, centering
on three grandly visual, absolutely English locations-the
Menuhin School, the private estate of Norney Grange, and
the actual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The cinematography
is luscious, making ample use of great exteriors in support
of a crisply told, masterfully paced story worth believing
in and easy to enjoy.
Clive Owen is excellent in the lead, his angular good looks
softened by dreaming and his piercing eyes focused far away.
He's easy to pull for as our unlikely hero rediscovering
life, and he does sensitive and soulful as well as he did
existential angst in CROUPIER. Helen Mirren, best known,
especially in the U.S., for numerous fine dramatic performances,
is a riot as the over-the-top, flamboyant, publicity-hogging,
outdoorsy-in-my-pearls, queen of the gardeners. Many of
the film's best one-liners are Mirren's, and she works the
character with flair and vogue-a little sweet, a little
naughty, a lot selfish, narrow and broadminded by turns,
judgmental and forgiving. David Kelley is fine as mentor
Fergus Wilks; Natasha Little is excellent and believable
as Mirren's late blossoming daughter and Owen's love interest.
The supporting cast is uniformly strong, particularly the
gardeners and the warden, a man whose smile is more scary
than his charges.
Now, this is not deathless art, but it is full of laughs
and smiles, and it's very satisfying. GREENFINGERS isn't
a kind of movie we've never seen; however, the individuality
of the actor's performances, the sureness of the direction
and pacing, the script's excellent lines and comic moments,
give this story a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction
rather than predictability-we want these outcomes from this
kind of romantic fable.
If you're looking for hard-edges, auteur sensiblities,
black comedy, multi-layered Anglophile regionalism, gritty
crime drama, working-class despair or camaraderie in language
so true to place that Americans need subtitles, this isn't
the British film for you. Remember, this is an American
writer/director's sunny British comedy. But if you're looking
for a good date or couple movie, planning a movie night
with other couples or your family, and looking for good
fun in a well acted, funny romantic comedy, this one's worth
full price. Even if you don't fit these groups, this is
at least worth a bargain matinee. Heck, if you're just looking
for one movie that doesn't disappoint in a summer of many
disappointments, full price is fine for this classy comedy.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...