I have never love-hated a movie more than I love-hate the classic 90s romantic comedy, Green Card, starring the indomitable Gerard Depardieu and the preternaturally beautiful young Andie McDowell. While I appreciate the premise and can easily accept that yes, faking a marriage in order to get a green card is probably a bad idea, nearly every single incident attached to said premise is patently ridiculous, the worst being the very end.
This being a classic 90s rom-com, you’ll already know that after the initial first half of the movie of her hating him to death and constant misunderstandings and head-bashing at how opposite they are (OMG, he eats meat! She eats muesli! She grew up privileged! He grew up a street thug with murder tattoos!) they have finally and irrevocably fallen in love. The scene is after their meeting with the INS, who is on to them regarding the previous fakeness of their marriage and has interviewed them separately. They are standing in the street in front of the Afrika café, where they first met. They are hugging. The INS guys are looming behind them, which Andie McDowell suddenly registers over Gerard Depardieu’s shoulder. Her pretty smiling face drops to a worried scowl. He is being deported, having flubbed the name of her face cream during the inquisition, which I’m assuming took place days before, as indicated by the subsequent montage of scenes featuring Ms McDowell moping despondently around her apartment, which begs the question: why did they let him leave the immigration building once they knew he was a terrible lying person? This is New York City; he could have faded into anywhere and never been seen again. Which, why in fuck didn’t he?
And the face cream. I don’t know which brand of shaving cream Scott uses, or even his pants size because he buys his own damn clothes. He has to know what she puts on her face, yeah? Next off, the guy grew up on the streets. He’s 40 years old and hasn’t learned how to cover a lie by now? He couldn’t say, “Well sheet, I knew you were going to ask all zese stupid eempossible questions, so of COURSE I took note of what color her toothbrush is and when she has her menstruation! I made une petite meestake, so sue me!” Thus turning it back on the inquisitor and making him feel like the foolish one. No, he has to instantly crumble into himself and ruin everything. Meaning their previously fake marriage which is no longer fake! Imbecile *said in French accent*.
This is what gets me. In the final scenes, they are CLEARLY in genuine, truthful love, as she is screaming and crying and throwing herself at him in a frenzy of despair and they are embracing and kissing and redeclaring their marriage vows and exchanging rings right there in front of the taxi to take him to the airport and yet the INS guys only look bewildered and shake their heads at each other, as if thinking, “These crazy immigration law breaking locos…what will they come up with to fool us next? BABIES?”
By the time the credits were rolling to the background of the Emmaus Group Singers cheerfully warbling, “Everything is gooonna be aa-all riiight…” I was throwing imaginary objects at the screen and whisper-screaming
“LYING MOTHERFUCKING LIARS!!!!”
I don’t care how many times they repeat the chorus. “Everything” is NOT “gonna be all right” when he has to go back to France, never to return, and the only way they can be together is if she moves away from America and leaves behind her magical apartment that she’s spent the entire movie wanting to get. This is stupid.
And yet… I love this movie. I do. Absolutely love it. I love how gorgeous and soulful little baby Andie McDowell is, even though at the time she couldn’t act worth a spit. I love how Gerard Depardieu falls immediately head over heels with her and manfully endures all her abuse and writes her a beautiful song and makes sweet Gallic love to her with his gloriously expressive eyes every second of every frame. I love how good an actor he is to her incredibly bad one. I love her apartment, hello. As far as I’m concerned, next to Depardieu, the apartment is the star of the show.
It had been years since I’d last seen Green Card, possibly even decades, yet when I watched it yesterday I found myself anticipating every phrase, eye twitch, sigh, swallow, and facial tic. I don’t remember if this is because I’d watched it a million times back in the day or because there once was a time when my focus was keen and my brain absorbent. It’s hard to fathom. I was a mere baby back then, in my 30s. My world experience was narrower; I still kind of believed in an external kind of “happily ever after.” Now I know we create our own happiness and it comes dearly. My 50 year old brain is crowded with this fact. I can’t even imagine what room I won’t have in there when I’m 70.
The second movie I’d like to mention is actually my first favorite, and it is perfect. It’s all warm, gushy love I feel for this movie, no love-hate about it. Crossing Delancey, starring Amy Irving, Peter Riegert, and the astounding Reizl Bozyk as Bubbie, was made around the same time, in 1988. So you know the same formula applies, with the added bonus of a sleezy Dutch charmer played by Jerome Krabbe, inserted into the plot to try to steal our heroine’s heart.
No way is THAT gonna happen. I mean, just look at that handsome pickle man.
Actually, here’s the thing, and this is why I think I love these two movies so much. The heroes are average-looking shmoes who because of persistence, personality, and no small amount of synchronicity, end up winning the beautiful women they desire. As we get to know them over the course of the movie, we start to think they’re handsome and fall in love with them, too. This is infinitely more interesting than starting out with some pretty boy actor who you KNOW could have any woman he wanted. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the satisfaction in the final denouement, the soul-sweeping kiss signifying a Job Well Done, if there’s no effort involved? I believe in the chase.
Speaking of handsome men.
Hope you’re all well. :)