A liberal-bashing 'Green Card'

January 18, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

'Green Card'

Starring Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell.

Directed by Peter Weir.

Released by Touchstone.

Rated PG-13.


These are tough days on the politically correct. Not only have they been cuffed around violently in both Newsweek and New York magazines, but today two defiantly politically incorrect movies arrive, strutting with bodacious contempt.

The louder of these by far is John Milius' browbeating "Flight of the Intruder"; but the better -- also by far -- is Peter Weir's brilliantly off-center "Green Card." Under its beguiling romantic surface lurks apostasy: It dares proclaim that liberals don't have the generic franchise on virtue that is the most cherished first illusion of the American film industry.

In fact, "Green Card" goes so far as to equate liberalism with a greenhouse garden: a delicate, wholly artificial jungle of illusions only tenable in carefully contrived circumstances far removed from the messy dictates of "reality." It ascribes sexual power to a "realist" and reserves its fiercest contempt for a rigidly correct vegetarian weenie who goes about in earth shoes lecturing others on their moral obligations to obey his beliefs. Not only does he not get the girl, he gets the boot.

Who gets the girl? Why it's the French mega-star Gerard Depardieu in his first American movie. Depardieu may take some getting used to by mainstream moviegoers: he has Neanderthalic charm and directness -- he's a hunchback of our lady.

Our lady is Andie MacDowell, the stunningly beautiful fashion model who appeared to actually have some talent in her last film, the surprising "sex, lies and videotape." In this one, she confirms that she has talent . . . but not much. She nevertheless works in the movie, because what's so appealing about her is something the camera registers without her having to work to project -- that's her dithering confusion, her hunger for a direction.

The movie's set-up is classic romantic farce, neatly engineered. MacDowell, sustaining herself in New York on a do-gooder project that plants trees in urban parks on the vague theory that trees extrapolate out to hope, has a chance to rent a gorgeous apartment, complete to the greenhouse she's always dreamed of. The only problem is that she has to be married to rent it.

Depardieu, meanwhile, is a knockabout Frenchmen who has declared himself a "composer"; he's desperately in need of a green card, from the Immigration Service, which will permit him to stay in the United States. One way to get one is to marry an American citizen.

A mutual friend arranges the completely cynical marriage of convenience, but two Immigration investigators tumble to the scam and insist that the emotional subtext of the marriage be authenticated, or else. Thus the two are forced to spend a weekend together to learn about each other in order to pass a marriage pop-quiz. One small problem: She hates him.

One other small problem: He loves her.

The movie orchestrates the familiar opposites-attract theme with these two slightly offbeat citizens at its center, watching as he slowly weans her from her orthodoxy and seduces her into caring for him. Just as sneakily, it seduces its viewers. It doesn't play fair, but it forbids you from refusing it.

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