Dig Your Own Hole

A film you might indeed take your mom to, Joel Hershman's Greenfingers is based on a British newspaper story about prison gardeners. Hershman is American, but the film is a totally British affair, combining the manners of Masterpiece Theatre and the moxie of East Enders. Rising star Clive Owen made a big impression a decade ago in Stephen Poliakoff's Close My Eyes (a perverse little movie about brother-sister incest) and then languished in TV-series-land until Mike Hodges cast him as the neurotic writer-gambler in Croupier. Here, he proves that he can also play a regular bloke, albeit one with an unintentional violent crime in his past.

Transferred for the last year of his murder sentence to a minimum-security prison, Colin (Owen) discovers his green thumb and also learns how to forgive himself, thanks to the friendship of a wise elderly lifer (David Kelly) who's dying of cancer. Colin's gardening talent attracts the attention of a famed horticulturist (Helen Mirren) who takes him on as an apprentice but panics when she discovers that her daughter Primrose is also blossoming as a result of his attention. Owen and Mirren are fun to watch, but the film, despite the many shots of gardens in full bloom, lacks visual distinction. Hershman is also a little too eager to gloss over his leading character's past—not to mention the British penal system, which, as a whole, is hardly as progressive as the experimental model shown in Greenfingers. In recent weeks, there've been a bunch of articles about inmate gardens in U.S. prisons. I'd bet an American remake is already in the works.

Ready, willing, and Abel: Modine and Dalle in The Blackout
photo: Anthology Film Archives
Ready, willing, and Abel: Modine and Dalle in The Blackout


Good Times, Bad Times: The Films of Abel Ferrara
July 27 through August 16

Written and directed by Joel Hershman
Fireworks/Samuel Goldwyn
Opens July 27

Directed by Michael Polish
Written by Mark Polish and Michael Polish
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens July 27

Michael and Mark Polish's debut feature, Twin Falls, Idaho, was a cloying oddball love story involving adult male Siamese twins; their follow-up, Jackpot, is another piece of whimsical Americana. A talentless country-western singer, Sunny Holiday (Jon Gries) has a face that's the visual equivalent of a whine and an attitude of permanently frustrated entitlement. He abandons his wife (Daryl Hannah) and young daughter to pursue his dream of becoming a karaoke star. Accompanied by his African American manager (Garrett Morris), who seems to be the only black male on this Midwest music circuit, he travels from one backwater club to another, barely picking up enough prize money to keep going, but finding enough pretty women to keep him in clean sheets every night. Since Sunny is physically unattractive, inept in bed, and a misogynist who sends his wife lottery tickets in lieu of child support, his popularity is a mystery to me.

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