Peter Weir is a master of creating movies which chronicle the subtle interplay of human emotion. GREEN CARD, like his previous film WITNESS, has a strong moral undertone, although on the surface it chronicles the vagaries of the human condition. Thus, the film depicts the fragile psychological interaction between the main characters thereby revealing the ambiguity in their relationship.
Female horticulturist Bronte Parrish wants to rent an exclusive apartment with a botanical garden attached that is only available to married couples. French national George Faure needs an Immigration Naturalization Service (INS) green card to live and work legally in the United States. Though the two are strangers, a mutual friend, Anton, arranges a wedding, a “marriage of convenience,” for them. George gets his green card, Bronte her apartment, and they part with the intention of never seeing each other again.
However, their charade is interrupted when U.S. Immigration officials decide to investigate this unusual union, as they have been told by higher-ups that they need to crack down on illegal aliens. Comic complications abound when Bronte and George are forced to live together for 48 hours to rehearse a convincing history of their lives together as mates in order to convince the INS that they are truly in love and married.
Bronte is a liberated environmentalist who loves plants and distrusts people, eats salads and abhors meat. George, on the other hand, came out of the Paris street gangs, smokes, drinks wine, and eats red beef. Bronte considers him oafish. George considers her effete. She has never been able to establish a lasting relationship with a man, while he believes his life hasn’t even started.
As George observes Bronte nurturing her plants like children, he begins to appreciate her and even puts in some plants for her which she promptly begins to dig up, then reconsiders. George continually annoys Bronte with his boorishness, but when the investigators question her separately, she says things like “He says he’s not sensitive, but he is, and he has passion–he is always humming this little tune.”
Needless to say, being such opposites, they fall in love. However, the ending is not all wine and roses.
GREEN CARD is a masterpiece of film making. Between peals of laughter, there are moments of startling insight into human character, such as when George surprises Bronte’s liberal elite friends with a superb piano composition, proving that just because a person looks uncouth doesn’t necessarily mean that he is. These and other instances prove the film’s premise that being required to get to know someone triumphs over stereotypes and makes one recognize the value of the other.
Another point the picture makes is that one is responsible for one’s actions. Lying has consequences–Bronte and George are both rebuked for this, and so the film doesn’t have a Hollywood ending in which all ends well. Although George and Bronte share an apartment for 48 hours, commendably, they do not have a sexual relationship. How different from many films today in which couples rush to bed on a first date. Unfortunately, there is some profanity and sexual innuendo. However, with its magnificent acting and incredible music, GREEN CARD is an important insight into the fact that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
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