Not rated, but that's because it's a bit too underground to really hit the MPAA's attention. It's very Catholic, but it also probably should earn an R-rating. While we don't see any nudity, there's a couple of pretty intense sexual situations. Also, they smoke like chimneys, get high, and swear like the dickens in one scene. It's a really weird parental guide this time.
DIRECTOR: Joe Duca
Geez Louise. This movie, guys. This movie. This movie sat on my to-watch list for far too long. I watched about a minute of it and said, "Nope." It's because I'm an unfair person. I was asked to review this movie through CNA (which is coming out. It's one of those rare ones where I literally just finished writing the professional one before I write the vent-y one. No not "Venti" one. Although this one probably will be longer and more ramble-y.). I asked my editor if I could skip it based on the first few minutes and he gave me the okay. But then I realized I wasn't really doing my very specific job if I didn't actually review it. My only reason that I took so long was because I didn't want to do it and that makes me a bad person.
It did suck. I'm sorry. It didn't suck as bad as I thought it would, but this movie was still a chore. It was probably about the longest hour-and-a-half I've had to go through for a while. A lot of that is because this is a short story that is blown up into an hour-and-a-half long feature. At Steubenville, where I went for college, my buddies made a comedy for his communications class. It's one of those scenarios where it is very entertaining, but way too long. We were desperate to make it a full length film and the content really didn't support it. I'm extremely proud of that movie, but I can see outsiders getting a little tired of it. Now, imagine you did the same thing for a Catholic film about relationships. Yeah, the movie could have been a great short. Okay, the movie could have been a pretty decent short. But as a film, it is drill-a-hole-through-your-head bad. I wasn't even allowed to play on my phone. I don't do that normally, but I REALLY don't do that when I'm being paid to watch a movie. I also have another confession to make. I really don't like Christian cinema. In high school, I really got into Jars of Clay and DC Talk. This is all vulnerable stuff here, guys. But like many of the things I only liked for a short time, I quickly got off the Christian music train. It's not like my faith went away. It just got kind of corny. (By the way, which was the Christian ska one that my wife probably listened to?) Christian films never really got on my radar, but there's something about Christian rock and Christian movies that share something in common. As much as they want to be treated like their secular contemporaries, there's always something off about the whole thing. There are some Christian songs that can slightly pass. I tend not to like them because I don't really like a lot. But movies that are exclusively marketed to Christian audiences never appeal to me. I know this isn't universal, but most of them are pretty bad.
I like the movies that have a Catholic message, but aren't necessarily Catholic movies. I tend to recommend the Doctor Who episode, "Kill the Moon" for a great abortion allegory. You can guess how I kind of roll when it comes to talking about my faith through cinema based on that choice. "Evergreen" is a Catholic film that has a really good intention, but a pretty abysmal execution by-and-large. I don't want to condemn the whole thing. There are a few scenes that actually got me to directly engage and be emotionally moved. Considering I didn't like the movie, that's pretty high praise. But my wife asked me something at the midway point that is dead-on. She asked, "Who is this movie for?" It's an excellent question. It was at about this time in the movie that she abandoned ship and escaped into the world of her phone to look up the personal histories of everyone who was involved in the movie. She knows every Facebook and Twitter post from Tanner Kalina. That's how she rolls and I love her for it. Also, I often want to smash her phone. (Love you, Sweetie!) I know who this film is meant to be for. It's meant to be for all Catholic audiences. It's meant to appeal to the hardcore Catholic set, with its references to Love and Responsibility. Its spouting of dogma and theology while placing the Holy Family at the center of Advent rocks and it totally feels like a Catholic film. But it also wants to get the stray Catholic who got rope-a-doped into watching this. It has some pretty hardcore sexual stuff in it. People smoke weed on top of heaps of tobacco. They say the f-word...like a lot. (In one scene.) They [think that they] talk like real people. Man, I bet this has people coming back to the faith with its rad and edgy attitude.
But, like, it doesn't. By not having a hard line, I think that the movie fails at attracting either audience. I know that it got some awards. I really want to question how someone had a good time at this movie, enough to write multiple positive reviews. But imagine you are Catholic...you know, like I am. You are sitting down with your wife, like I did, and strapped yourself in for a film with good Catholic ideals. "Oh man, I hear that they address issues of lust and premarital sex." And then, you know, you watch a movie with some pretty intense sexuality. Like, uncomfortable sexuality. You know, unnecessary lustful sexuality. Yeah, that's not really appealing to Catholics. You can talk about Claddagh rings all day. You can throw around Love and Responsibility until the cows come home. It doesn't change that you just showed a really hot scene of people almost having sex. The other end of the spectrum is true as well. You have this sex scene that is probably normal for most movies, but really intense for a Catholic movie. Then you have to sit through and hour-and-fifteen more minutes with people talking about morality and ethics...occasionally doing it while high. Let's go with a best-case-scenario for this whole thing. Imagine that it worked and someone who was on the fence decided to turn his life over to Christ. Yay. I'm excited. Wait, it's okay to get high? It's okay to have a sex-free weekend with your girlfriend and co-habitate? It's okay to wear trying-too-hard suits and a fedora. (I'm sorry, but I could just see this guy walking around Steubenville. I know he didn't go to FUS, but the fedora and bow-tie put it over the top. The man bun didn't help.)
There's so much that didn't make the movie work. I'm going to go into one more thing that was so nagging at me that is petty, but it's my website. If I had to see one more scene of the protagonist putting his outrageously long hair into a bun, I might have smashed my phone. (I was casting it to the TV. Calm down, David Lynch.) THEY ROLL CIGARETTES, GUYS! Just scenes of man buns rolling cigarettes. I know it's all petty! I hear me too. But also, I'm supposed to be on that guy's team. I'm supposed to be like, "Catholicism, brother. Catholicism." Instead, I just wanted to shake him a little bit. Listen, I'm pretty woke. I'm down with millennials and my students. It's just this combination really bugged me. I'm supposed to be rooting for him and instead, I kept thinking that a random serial killer was going to enter the house and, in the pursing fight, cut off his hair and throw away his cigarette kit.
Okay, I got it out of my system. I can't dunk on this movie the entire time because there's some actually kinda/sorta decent stuff in the film. While the main story is completely annoying and in your face, the character backgrounds are actually kind of interesting. I like that the protagonist was married. Evergreen actually has some interesting things to say about annulments that I haven't really seen too often. Yeah, the movie as a whole comes across like a NET skit, (Catholic cred, right there) the moments where Paul interacts with Cassie actually have a bit of merit. I know, I am preaching all about how this movie lacks subtlety and the one thing I ask for the movie to do is to take the one subtle element of the movie and move it to the forefront. I'm a bad person and I've really established that in the review. But there is an emotional honesty behind the whole film. As much as I dislike this film, it has the right idea. The movie does really try to sell issues that Catholics deal with during the courting stages of a relationship. It takes into account that people have all kinds of baggage that affect the way we interact. Also, SPOILER: The movie kind of has a bummer ending. I love bummer endings. Sure, it's a bit hopeful at the same time, but it is a bummer ending. Oddly enough, the actress who played Cassie was pretty great. I mean, she had to be quiet and sad for a majority of the film, but she's effective at being quiet and sad.
I'm so sorry to some people reading this. If you like Christian and Catholic films, please continue doing so. I wish I did. I would love to be recommending these films to others instead of the trash I watch. But I also don't get a ton of artistic merit from a movie like Evergreen. Rather, I find it tedious and really frustrating. Also, I cannot stress this enough, the protagonist...GAH! He's just too much. I'm so sorry, Tanner Kalina. I am sure you are a prince in real life. It's just too much.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.