Eye For Film >> Movies >> George Washington (2000) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
For David Gordon Green, a 24-year-old writer/director, working in North Carolina with young black kids, this is one hellava debut. The cinematography (Tim Orr), stretched wide across the screen, has all those soft colours you remember from East Of Eden. The soundtrack is sweeter than Woody Guthrie and yet retains a homegrown sound.
The film is slow and episodic. The kids hang out, not doing very much. George is 12, or 13. He's the quietest of them all. He wears the inner of a football helmet to protect his skull, which is baby soft. Getting it wet could make him sick. He has an old dog on a rope, which he found in the street. It smells and has fleas, but you know, without being told, how much he cares.
The girl who narrates the movie loves George. She says he'll be a hero, he'll be President of the United States. He believes it and starts wearing a superhero cloak, made from a sheet. His uncle works on the railroad and is a tricky guy. He's angry, but you don't know why. The white men who work on the railroad are kind to the black kids. They listen to them.
The black girls talk about boys and laugh. They are so much smarter. The boys go to the pool and swim, but they don't play games. It seems they are waiting. George says, "I want to save people's lives," and he does. He saves a white boy from drowning. But something terrible happens and they carry the secret with them and it weighs heavy.
Rites-of-passage movies tug at the heartstrings because, looking at them from the other side, when it's over, the pain has gone and there is no more fear. This is a film that is made like a documentary, intentionally spontaneous and unformed. The only white girl says, "I'm not a good person. I don't have nice thoughts." She looks about 11. Why is she talking like a grown-up? "Sometimes I smile and laugh at all the good things you're going to do," the narrator tells George. "I hope you live forever."
When the sky turns red in the evening and the sun goes down, you understand the power of film, how it creates an illusion of reality that fits into the way you want it to be. By touching the buttons of those who have never been to North Carolina, Green feeds the hunger for innocence in the minds of those who have lost it.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001