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flick pick | George Washington 2000
Directed + written by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Candace Evanovski, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III, Rachael Handy
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama

Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, serious
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5

Plot synopsis Buddy, George, Vernon, Sonya and Nasia live in a small, idyllically-harmonious, multiracial, post-industrial town that lies somewhere deep in the rural South. It’s a long hot summer and the kids don’t have much to do: go swimming at the town pool, explore the abandoned buildings and decaying lots that litter their run-down town, hang out. Nasia – at twelve years old going on thirty – breaks up with Buddy because she says he just acts too much like a kid, running around all day like he’s eight years old. Buddy’s crushed: she’s the only one for him, though he’s so inept at communicating with girls that though he can say so to his best friend, Vernon, he’s practically mute when it comes to voicing his feelings to Nasia herself. It doesn’t matter though, as Nasia has a new love interest, George. Quiet, serious, and eager to succeed in life – to become someone great, maybe the president someday – George is different from the rest of the kids in town, and not just because he has a deformity of the skull that leaves his head vulnerable to injury from even the tiniest impact (he walks around in a plastic helmet for protection). It’s the usual trials and tribulations of young adolescent love, as Buddy laments the break-up to everyone who’ll listen, Nasia pursues a fairly oblivious George, and Vernon reams Nasia for ditching poor lovesick Buddy, then having the gall to flaunt her new crush in Buddy’s face. But when the kids find themselves involved in a tragic accident, they’re forced to take a look at who they are, what they care about, and who they want to be – to do a little growing up.

Review George Washington sometimes feels more like a mood than a story: between the slow, dreamy soundtrack, the long, still shots of small people moving slowly through a big landscape, and the hypnotic, languorous, gently-lilting voiceover provided Nasia, it’s easy to get lulled into the sad-gorgeous ambience of the place, and forget a little about the actual characters and plotline. David Gordon Green’s debut feature film is a weird, quiet movie that demands a certain amount of patience, especially in the somewhat drawn-out, slow lead-up to the pivotal tragedy, when you’re just getting to know the kids, but not yet getting a good sense of who each of them are as individuals, beyond the vague understanding that Buddy’s a sweet little guy, Vernon’s maybe a budding thug, Sonya’s the world’s tiniest car thief, Nasia tends towards the haughtily precocious, and George doesn’t say a whole lot, but always looks like he’s thinking. Then again, it’s the tragedy that really forces them to confront what’s important to them, and therefore really reveals their characters to themselves as well as to us, the viewers. Before, they’re just your usual shiftless, aimless teens occasionally playing at being adults, cocksure and completely naïve, kind of sweet in their innocence, somewhat annoying in their pretensions of maturity. It’s in the aftermath, their delusions that they have a clue about life pretty much wrecked, that the kids begin to feel distinct and quirky, real and interesting. Sadly, the stiff line-readings of some of the child actors sometimes get in the way of the emotional impact of key scenes – at one point, the usually sullen, silent Sonya waxes poetic with Vernon about how she thinks she’s just not a good person, in a monologue that ought to be deeply moving, except for the fact that it’s so poorly delivered that she might as well be reading a cereal-box out loud – but for the most part, George Washington is a beautifully evocative, meditative, lyrical look at what it means to be an adolescent on the verge of adulthood.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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