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Uniquely captures the mood of adolescence
Howard Schumann19 August 2002
"I like to go to beautiful places where there's waterfalls and empty fields"… Nasia

George Washington is a meandering, moody, and hypnotic look at a group of black children, ages 9 to 14, during one summer in North Carolina. This was my second viewing and it remained a deeply satisfying experience. Though at times self-conscious, George Washington brings to mind Terence Malick's Days of Heaven with its voice-over narration, languid, dreamy tone, and gorgeous cinematography.

The youngsters are shown talking and playing aimlessly among the squalid junkyards and abandoned buildings of their neighborhood. They do not talk much about their hopes for the future but focus on their families and their girl friends and boy friends. The dialogue is partly improvised and, like Days of Heaven, allows the characters to speak in a manner that is slightly more poetic and contemplative than the average teenager.

The narrator, Nasia (Candace Evanofski), is a 12-year-old who has just broken up with her 13-year-old boyfriend Buddy (Curtis Cotton III) because, in her view, he's too young and immature. She's more attracted to Buddy's friend George (Donald Holden), a quiet and serious boy who always wears a helmet to protect his soft skull. They hang out with their friends, a mismatched pair of amateur car thieves named Vernon (Damian Jewan Lee) and Sonya (Rachael Handy), and also with Rico (Paul Schneider), a local railroad worker. Buddy shares his sadness with Rico who comforts him with his own story of lost love.

When an unexpected tragedy occurs, each of them must look closer at themselves and struggle to make an emotional connection with the events. They come to their realizations at different moments throughout the film and slowly begin to change in different ways. George, for one, after saving a drowning boy in a swimming pool becomes a neighborhood hero. Those realizations, however, do not provide an instantaneous fix and Green does not provide a forced happy ending.

Green has said, "One of the reasons I made this movie is because movies talk down to kids, put them as a cute little kid with a box of cereal and a witty joke," says Green. "You watch movies like Kindergarten Cop and it's like, 'Oh, a kid said something about sex. Isn't that funny?' It's just annoying and it makes me sad for their parents."

George Washington presents a view of teens that is not condescending but shows each character as a person of dignity and worth. It uniquely captures the confusion of adolescence, the need to belong, to believe life is or can be important, and the universal longing for love. Green has looked into the squalor and found beauty. Like a poem of Walt Whitman, he has expressed the divine in the commonplace.
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Pure cinema, a masterpiece of indie filmmaking.
FlRELlGHT17 February 2002
George Washington is the kind of film I instantly respond to for the simple reason that it is pure, perfect cinema. This is what FILM can do when free of the constraints of popular movie-making. When it ended it made me think of that old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words." Well what happens when that picture moves? You get George Washington. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone reading this by needless plot exposition that I find so annoying in most professional reviews. But the film does center around a small American town, and a group of poor children during the long, hot summer months. This film has absolutely wonderful cinematography, better than most big budget Hollywood films, and the mood it sets is alternately playful, melancholy, surreal, and poignant. Many times I was reminded of my own childhood; scenes play out in a very organic way and the actors, mostly children, are all wonderful. Before I saw this film I had heard that one of the director's influences was Terrence Malick, a filmmaker I love dearly, and George Washington reminded me a lot of Malick's "Days of Heaven." He uses voiceover in much the same way Malick did in that film...alternating between narration, random thoughts, and character exposition. The voiceover use in this film, as in Days of Heaven, is spoken the way someone might hear their own thoughts. Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean. Although the movie is about children, it's not really "for" kids, but I would venture to say that any kid from about age 12 and up would be all the richer for seeing this movie. However in this age of short attention spans, and video game editing I don't hold out much hope that many kids would appreciate a film like this. But for adults, especially lovers of the cinema, this should be required viewing. It's up to us support these kinds of movies so we can see more of them in the future. I saw this for free on the independent film channel, but I plan on buying the DVD anyway...George Washington is a film I will be proud to add to my collection. I loved it.
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You're expected to think
futures-113 November 2007
Don't look for a simple, linear plot line or resolutions to what you think are the problems. "George Washington" is the offspring of "Gummo" and "Stand by Me", and a very distant relative to "Eraserhead" (but with a soul). The dialog is often beyond the age, character, and scope of the kids depicted (similar to "Brick"), which can be disconcerting, yet, when suspending disbelief, remained interesting. The scoring is dark and moody – and seldom lets up. On occasion, the lack of actor training can be seen in the kids, but for the most part they do a good job. The locations are full of dying and dead culture – rich, textural, beautiful crumbling Industrial Revolution. This is a ponderous, sometimes overly artful film that is none the less worth seeing and considering afterwards. It has things to say – and you're expected to use your own mind.
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immensely subtle, brilliantly realized
bacchae16 September 2002
When I first saw "George Washington" at the L.A. Independent Film Festival, I remarked to a colleague that I wasn't sure if the film was "brilliant," or if it was "a student film." He remarked, in kind, that "it was a brilliant student film." At the time, I agreed. But after repeated viewings of "George Washington," I think I am starting to encounter its sheer sublime brilliance... and in retrospect, it is one of the most beautifully realized films I've ever seen. As a Southerner, I can't recall a film that has better captured the mood of the rural South. The film's languid pacing--set amidst its plush backdrop of swimming pools, the rusted steel of dilapidated factories, children playing in the sun, immense greenery, and diverse ethnic culture--continually transports me back to the South that I experienced growing up. Its operatic photography mixes a complex cinematic chemistry that, for me, feels more and more like a documentary in tone the more I watch it. Yet for all the film's structural "looseness," there is that one story strand that seems to always hit from an unforeseen angle, which softly jerks you back to the story just as you start to think the film is losing focus. The film's pace seems centered on this hypnotic lulling style: the narrative rope slackens almost to the point of no return, until all of a sudden that rope is pulled taut by its sheer weight. Other reviews here accurately describe what "George Washington" is about, so I will defer to them for story description. Unfortunately, in many descriptions here, people (mistakenly) see "randomness" in the film's structure. But the story's elements are just so beautifully and intricately weaved that one can actually leave the film truly wondering if there was any structure to it at all. This is absolutely not a "by chance" occurance. It is the mystifying brilliance of this classical tale: the languid pacing almost fosters Southern-style "forgetfulness" to the point that the story seems to forget about itself and fold inward. All the stories fall into each other so smoothly that it's easy to forget and begin wondering "what happened?" But this style is in fact the film's structure, and is absolutely the intended hypnotic effect, which is so reflective of the mood of Southern culture (if I am allowed to state this so broadly). I've now seen the film about ten times, and I can confidently state that "George Washington"'s immense subtlety in this regard should not be overlooked. There are many examples of backstory that David Gordon-Green (the writer/director) leaves just underneath the surface, waiting to be found. For example, in the relatively minor scene where George visits his imprisoned father, it's amazing to consider just how much that simple scene reveals of George's strange circumstances. Without being obvious and saying directly to the viewer "x happened, now y occurs," we are all of a sudden introduced to George's complex emotional world. We are given an image (but not an explanation) as to why he now lives with Damascus. What's the backstory here? Did George's father murder his mother? We are told nothing directly. But after the incident with Buddy, George is able to come to some sort of terms with his father--who remains silent, smoking a cigarette behind bars. George tells his father that he once didn't believe him, but now believes him... and loves him. The film's central theme--that of George becoming a hero--is most exemplified in this moment... and is in my estimation the biggest character building moment of the film. In a quick two minute scene (which, action-wise, is relatively forgettable), we all of a sudden encounter George as a growing adolescent in a very complex adult world: as guilty, as scared, as proud, as strong, as knowing, as forgiving. It's as though his conscience were born in that moment of inner conflict, and provides the measure for his becoming a hero later in the film. (As a wise man once told me, one can only become a hero by being, at some point, the opposite of a hero.) I think the typical response that George's heroism is ironic in the film should be discredited by the depth of his character. Far from ironic, he is simply a hero who begins to grasp the price of heroism. "George Washington" is rife with little gems like this. So many subtleties abound here, like Nasia's fascinating narration told from the future perfect tense (revealed only once in a phrase halfway through the film)--told as though the story were some sort of Southern archetypal memory. Or Damascus' pre-text for quitting his job, so subtley inserted in the beginning that you forget about it by the time you realize what his phobias are. Or even George's breathtaking "admission," as indicated in the interrogation office through a jerk-reaction sniff that seems to come two paces too late. How much is revealed in that small action! "George Washington" is one of the most artful and intricately directed films I've ever seen. It is the kind of film that, like its story, will never crack the (canonical) surface because of its deep subtleties... but which, because of that, is what will always make it shine.
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Engrossing, A very underrated film
juanathan3 June 2005
After only writing a few reviews, I promised myself I would not give a film a perfect score too easily, but I cannnot resist. George Washington is truly astonishing and touching piece of cinema. Some people have called one of the best films of the new decade. This is definitely not too far from the truth. As the summary had said it is told very deceptively but we do not know the director has up his sleeve both plot wise and emotionally.

One of the best things about this film is its realism. David Gordon Green captured the essence of how kids today speak. Often we find in the usual "tween" movies that the young kids speak perfect English, always have good posture, speak with a clear voice, and have a wide vocabulary. I sound like one of my teachers. In the real world, this is not how kids actually talk and Mr. Green should be commended for bringing this to the masses.

As many people know, this film has great cinematography and the location is an area rarely seen in movies today. It even rivals Malick's. The opening scenes in particular have great cinematography. They are a hook to the viewers that enchants them to keep watching. The sub-satisfactory location is turned into a beautiful not quite urban or rural town of mystery and intrigue.

Yes, I will say it. This film is very moving. I know I will sound like a sap but it is moving in the true sense of the word. It is never overly sentimental or sappy. It feels so genuine. Few films recently have been so affecting on this level. The film has a very provocative take on redemption I like how the director used amateurs to add even more realism to the movie. The acting was pretty good, too. Stay clear if this movie if you do not have a good attention span (most reviewers are complaining about this). It is drawn out but oh so rewarding. Highly recommended.
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Quiet and sincere small-town American study
Polaris_DiB9 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
David Gordon Green's first feature is like Gummo, only better: characters stumble across a vast wasteland they're only semi-aware of, but instead of just being weird and disturbing, these characters are gentle and caring. Actually, it's worth noting that most of the dialog is not all that un-familiar, and that if the characters were older this movie would seem like pretentious Indie junk. Instead, it puts the context into comedic relief to see 12 year olds discussing love like aging veterans of break-up and loss.

As for, well, imagery: heart-breaking/rending photography. Shot in North Carolina, two people to praise would be the location scout and the cinematographer.... the town these people live in is shapeless, buildings and trash and trains and mines and forest and plants and trees and swamp all co-inhabit the same spaces. The characters seem to know their way around, but trying to track them in context to an overall map is impossible. As a background, it serves well, but also symbolically links to George's traffic directing as a true act of heroism, even after saving that kid's life.

Anyway, this movie is wonderful, and as David Gordon Green has been getting a lot of attention lately what with his new movie Pineapple Express coming out, I'd like to check out more of his work.

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A deeply confusing film
mohaas10 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Five days after seeing *George Washington* at the Chicago International Film Festival, I still don't really know what to make of it. At times, the film is reminiscent of Terence Malick's work with the use of narration, beautifully evocative music, and mesmerizing shots of the landscape. However, the film jolts you out of the meditative state such devices usually inspire with bizarre turns in the plot and characters.

[A little spoiler here, so if you don't want to know anything about the film, check out here.] *George Washington* follows four young teenagers in the deep south as they lead relatively unsupervised lives. One day, when tragedy occurs, they are forced to come to terms with an adult world they had never really thought about. This is where the film gets perplexing and, I have to admit, I'm not sure if I get it exactly. I'm sure on repeated viewings, though, there will be a lot there to find.

This film is confusing, but it's confusing at its best.
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Why do people like this?
dan-80017 January 2013
I have hated almost every film David Gordon Green has made after "George Washington" - but even this movie begs the question, "why?"

The acting is supposedly honest, but actually felt hackneyed and unrealistic by both the kids and the "real" actors alike. The storyline is virtually nonexistent, but what *is* there says so little that it barely exists. All that's left is the okay photography, and the sleepy directing. This is "Sundance" stuff akin to "Beasts of the Southern Wild" - boring, pointless, and so utterly, formulaically "non-form" that it's just as predictably ambiguous as the most hackneyed Hollywood Romcom is happy-ending-ized.

The biggest difference between Sundance-honored independent films and Hollywood mediocrity is that at least Hollywood isn't totally disingenuous about what it's dishing out.
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George Washington on Reel 13
eplromeo814 November 2008
Even though GEORGE WASHINGTON lacks the star power of the Reel 13 Indies of late (IMAGINARY HEROES, SUNSHINE STATE), it's still a high profile independent film. It's legendary in the industry as the first film from indie auteur David Gordon Green. It also already has its own Criterion Collection Edition on DVD, so Channel 13 can hardly claim to have made a discovery here.

As disappointing as it is that Reel 13 has gone away from bringing us films that are new to us (though not that many of them were very good), you have to acknowledge that at the very least, we get an independent film that is wonderfully cinematic and well-crafted. David Gordon Green has a pretty simple formula – not a great deal of extraneous camera movement, realistic characters and scenes that are lyrically cut together with beautifully photographed landscapes. There is a certain poetry to his work that is all his own – a style that he worked to even greater impact with his follow-up film ALL THE REAL GIRLS.

As similar as the feel of GEORGE WASHINGTON is to that film, it's narrative is quite different and deals with a handful of young kids in a small, poor town somewhere in the South (Arkansas? NC?) as they deal with tragedy and the unstoppable nature of growing up. The kids, whom I suspect are all untrained actors, are all quite good, albeit playing characters that are perhaps more mature than their respective ages suggest. That aspect, along with the verisimilitude and honesty of the scenes, reminds me a lot of Peter Sollett's work. Not as much RAISING VICTOR VARGAS (which airs on Reel 13 in May) than the short it was based on – FIVE FEET HIGH AND RISING – only Green accomplishes a similar effect without a hand-held camera.

There a couple of nitpicky things that keeps GEORGE WASHINGTON from being as effective as the previously mentioned ALL THE REAL GIRLS. For starters, it's a little slow and hard to hear at times. Paul Schneider, who is outstanding in a much more significant role in REAL GIRLS, is more of a distraction here than an asset. His character, ostensibly intended for comic relief, is like a sixth toe on one foot – it doesn't stop you from walking normally, but it's really unnecessary. I also felt the voice-over was also extraneous – as if Green didn't trust us to comprehend his themes. The biggest issue I had with the film, though, is the surreal turn it takes in its last twenty minutes or so. Without giving too much away, it relates to changes in the main kid character, which are personified by a radical shift in wardrobe. While I see the overarching purpose of the choice – to explicate how the character deals with some of his misfortunes – it is a major shift in tone for the piece and stands out like a sore thumb against the quiet beauty of the rest of the film.

Still and all, beggars can't be choosers and having sat through some very questionable indie films over the last few months, GEORGE WASHINGTON is a very welcome change.

(For more information on this or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website at
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Most Overrated "underrated" movie of the year
stacijon16 June 2001
I was finally able to watch this movie this afternoon after months of anticipating its arrival in my area. I had read the glowing reviews and eagerly ran to today's matinee. I couldn't have been more disappointed. I have a certain affection for slow paced movies as they give me such a feeling of peace as I watch. Many of the comments in this forum praised the film for its deliberate pace, which indeed was an attribute of this movie. However, the acting was so incredibly bad that it ruined the entire experience. I am totally shocked at the comments at this site praising these actors. Someone used the word improvisational. If that means unplanned or not thought out in advance then I will agree. For whatever reason, this film has managed to somehow mesmerize normally discerning movie goers into thinking that this is a gem... but this diamond in the rough is more like coal. I'd suggest that this director who has obvious potential spend more of his budget on acting on his next try. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!!!!
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Hard to describe.
nonconformist22 May 2007
When I see the writer and the director are the same guy I sometimes worry.

This was my first inkling this may not be a great movie. The characters are an odd mix. I like the fact that most of them are just ordinary people. Movies usually go way over the top with casting and outrageous characters. But there are some pretty silly characters in this movie too. Also I got tired of the poor wrong side of the tracks philosophical wise child character that is so pervasive in this film. Most of the adults in the movie have serious defects and the writer's view of the South is questionable. It seems to me he also intends it to be depressing.

Unlike some of the reviews I've read I thought the cast did fairly well. It was the plot, script and direction that made this film impossible.

It's easy to see where the director was going with this film; it's just debatable whether or not it's worth the trip
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I'm sure there are worse movies out there, but...
krispect19 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not exactly sure why I choose to order this movie from Netflix beyond the fact that I just wanted to see something a different. This film was definitely that! There was no specific plot or easily conceivable manifestation as to how any one character tied in to another. Basically, each person was just there, crossing the path of another poor soul, also just happening to be there. George, the centerpiece of the movie, had aspirations of being great, as explained by Nasia, the movie's narrator, but you kinda get the feeling that he is just a moronic preteen that doesn't seem to make any more sense than any other person in the movie, though he is deemed to be developmentally disabled. The parts that were supposed to be serious were, to me, hilarious for the most part because they were so random and out of whack. Nothing made sense. Like George riding in a taxi to transport his deceased friend, Buddy, to a river where he could be laid to rest. Oh, did I mention that his friend had been dead for what was probably over a month, and though the "authorities" were searching for Buddy, no one questions George? I can go on and on about this movie, but see it yourself if you don't believe me, or, you can watch something more worthy of your attention, like the back of your eyelids! The only reason that this move get's a three (I have scarcely seen one worse) is because it made me laugh. Would I watch it again? Maybe if I was high.
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A great sleep aid
dowlingj1 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Won't waste too many words on this one. BAD! BAD! BAD! [POTENTIAL SPOILER COMING] Aimless story a group of wandering teens and pre-teens set in a "southern" "industrial" area who attempt to cover-up the accidental death of one of their group. Watching this movie was like being subjected to 90 minutes of semi-random politically correct Public Service Annoucements with dialogue that could put an African Elephant out cold in seconds. Save your money and time.
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malick wannabe misses mark
tom-5520 April 2004
I came to this film with no more knowledge of it than that many critics I trust raved about it. I was sorely disappointed, and my only explanation for the praise it received was that we've been force fed so many banal and unimaginative films from the movie mill in Hollywood that any break from it will be treated like a morsel to the starving. Problem is, while GW is indeed different from the crowd, it isn't particularly original. In fact it reminds me of a vastly inferior Terry Malick film. It attempts to be a poetic, non- linear look at the lives of adolescents in a decaying small north Carolina town, and while beautiful (it is after all 35mm cinemascope), it falls flat, with gratuitous wackiness and non-sequitors. Sometimes these poor kids are forced to spout stuff that sounds like it came from Sartre or Camus. Other times they are allowed to talk like the kids they are. And the adults? Most are ludicrously over-the-top. I felt tortured by the pretentiousness of this thing at 42 minutes, but sat through the other 40 hoping for a payoff. There wasn't much of one. I had no emotional connection to anyone in here because I didn't recognize them as real. What's worse is I really could have. Some of the ideas and situations in here are rich in potential, though left unmined, unrealized. Terry Malick's version of this faux Malick film would have been much better.
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BrianJG5 August 2001
Everyone has their own take on movies. As I read other reviews there are people who seem to really like this movie, however I am not one of them. Some movies I find simply bad, Dude Where's My Car, but rarely do I come across a movie as this that is a complete torture to sit through. The following is my take on the movie.

It is SLOW. It is a bad 20 minute short crammed into a 90 minute movie. There are scenes in the movie that are obviously there to fill up time. The movie spends 5 minutes with a scene of a guy riding a motorcycle. That is all he is doing. Just riding a motorcycle through town. I don't remember him ever even waving to anyone.

The dialog is awful, and the acting is awful with the exception of the gentleman who plays the uncle. All other actors, I am using the term actor loosely since I am sure this is the first time any of them has tried to act, deliver their lines in a monotone style as if they were reading them from the page for the first time.

The one thing I did like about the movie was how even though the characters were of mixed races the topic of race or prejudice was not part of the movie.
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rowe-410 April 2002
This may be the worst movie I've ever seen. Billed as an art-school film. If I'd been the prof, it would have gotten an F:

1- Contrived plot. They were trying hard to be weird, macabre, and david-lynchian, but they failed miserably.

2- Bad acting. I had the feeling these non-actors were cajoled into taking the parts, or did so as a personal favor to the film makers. But it may not be their fault, because of...(see 3 below)...

3- Terrible script. The script was so contrived that the actors were laughing even while trying to deliver their inane lines.

3- Cheap use of death, gross-out effects and gross-out events for sensationalistic purposes

4- Poor representation of the South and of NC and of Winston-Salem where the filming took place.

and finally,

5- Anything that can make a film bad that I haven't thought of was probably in the film.

The only reason for anyone to see the film:

Could be shown by a film prof to the film class on how NOT to make a film.
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Profoundly Annoying
zetes23 February 2001
George Washington is one of the most upsetting film experiences I've ever had. The reason for this is not what you might expect. It was not bad. A bad film isn't exactly annoying. What is annoying is inconsistency. It is as if it were written and directed by Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jeckyl's parts are the great parts, of which there are numerous. In fact, many individual scenes have an utterly profound power, almost knocking me down. But here comes Mr. Hyde! About 1/3 of the scenes of the entire film are awful in every aspect. They clash so horribly with the great scenes that it basically kills the film dead.

Actually, I think the good parts and bad parts can be identified further. I think I know which aspects were sorely lacking in the film.

The film's story is great. I could imagine reading it in a novel and finding it quite compelling. The script, though, lacked a huge part: the dialogue. The dialogue ranges from not bad to terrible. Fundamentally, the dialogue is problematic in the same way as the Terrence Malick film The Thin Red Line. In that film, we here narration of a grand poetical quality coming from these soldiers. It's as if there are two characters: the actual ones, and the fantastically poetic ones. George Washington is the same way, except for one major flaw: these deeply poetic and philosophical musings that these young kids come up with are neither very poetic nor very philosophical. They're all extraordinarily hackneyed, in fact. And to boot, all actors in the film except for one of the kids are HORRENDOUS actors, both in dialogue delivery and in gesticulations. The kid who plays George, arguably the main character, is the best.

There is one monologue in the film that I feel the need to just attack ferociously to demonstrate the lowest depths of this film. George's uncle, who has adopted him, is particularly cruel to animals, especially dogs. He admits to killing a dog to his nephew, and then proceeds to tell George the root of this psychological problem. It seems that when he was a young kid, 6 I think, a big dog came up to him and started humping his leg. He tried to overpower the darn thing, but it was too big and knocked him down. It "humped [him] all over [his] body." So he went home and got a drill to kill the dog, but that dog was gone. COME ON!!! This is incredibly silly. I cannot think of a sillier event than being raped by a dog!!! Jeeze, I almost threw things at the screen that was so terrible!

This is one of those movies that I would love to see someone remake, cutting the bad things, thickening the rest of the story (the themes in the film, while potent, are often tenuously held together). I bet a really compelling film could be made with just the existing footage. One thing I do have to say, though, is watch out for this director! This film may have been a failure (and that is only in my opinion, of course), but there is so much worth in it that I think if the director matured, he might produce a real masterpiece. I will give it a 6/10 because of the good things in it. Really, though, the film falls pretty flat by the end.
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The everyday made poetic by a visionary eye
Geofbob3 November 2001
David Gordon Green's first miniscule-budget movie is strange and disconcerting, and appears to lack a real focus; but maybe that's its theme - the aimlessness and randomness of life in a poor North Carolina neighbourhood. But not from the conventional point of view that regards such lack of purpose as totally negative; but with a poetic, visionary eye that can see meaning and even beauty in things and people that appear on the surface to be mundane, derelict, pointless or absurd.

Ostensibly the film is about a group of kids, mainly black, who spend their time goofing around, as kids do, until there's a tragic accident, and then a heroic rescue, and George (Donald Holden) is at the centre of both the accident and rescue. And George is already marked out as an exceptional character, not only because he has a weak skull and has to wear a helmet, but because pretty Nasia (Candace Evanofski) has switched her affections to him from an apparently more attractive companion. The children are surrounded by, and inter-mingle with, a mixed bunch of adults, the most prominent being a group of manual workers, who alternately josh each other and make would-be serious statements. However sceptical he or she might have been initially, by the end of the film the viewer accepts that George is exceptional and possibly a potential hero; but whether the world in general will ever recognise this is more doubtful; though the movie ends on a hopeful note.

Technically, the film is fine; with great photography, striking visuals, and effective music. Nevertheless, it is hard to follow, because of its rough edges and loose ends; it is probably best regarded not as a narrative, but more as a series of vignettes. From a conventional viewpoint, much of the acting by Green's amateur cast, is "bad", reminiscent of early dramatised documentaries by, say, Robert Flaherty; but this crudity and stiltedness add to the surreal feel of the movie, and give the characters a grittiness that smooth "good" acting might not. Of all the movies I've seen lately, this is one I'd like to see again, when an opportunity arises.
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A waste of time
Jim6 May 2004
This is one of the worse movies I've ever seen in my life. If you don't believe it, see it yourself. You'll be sorry.

I can't believe the glowing reviews. This just plain sucks. Someone compared it to watching paint dry. Believe me watching paint dry is much more exciting. The movie has no entertainment value whatsoever.

So Roger Ebert liked it and gave it '****'. So? He's an idiot. Rent this movie and see for yourself. No wonder Gene Siskel argued with him so much. He's probably rolling over in his grave after seeing Ebert's rating on this one.

The glowing reviews on this website? They're out of their minds, period.
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So lively, so convincing, so extraordinarily absorbing, not to be missed by those looking for underrated movies. ***1/2 (out of four)
Movie-1223 February 2001
GEORGE WASHINTON / (2000) ***1/2 (out of four)

By Blake French:

"George Washington" details the drowsy lives of several preteen friends during their last summer of childhood, and it feels so accurate how the characters behave in the slumberous, low standard society. This is the summer where their first crushes arrive and flowering sexuality gives them confidence instead of confusion. It is a summer where the heat is consistent and the days seemingly last forever with nothing to do. The movie is about how a tragedy can forever change the course of individual lives so unexpectedly and abruptly.

The setting is North Carolina on an industrial landscape, where we meet several black kids between the ages of ten and thirteen. The preteens are Buddy (Curtis Cotton III), who has a crush on Nasia (Candace Evanofski). She leaves him a young fellow named George (Donald Holden). George is a very interesting character; the plates in his skull did not meet correctly, so he must wear a protective helmet to cover his delicate head. George saves a child from drowning, even though his head is never supposed to get wet. He then walks around with a cape on, feeling accomplished like a hero. Then an accident happens, leaving the remaining characters with a lot to think about.

There is not a lot of active conflict here, just an examination of behaviors of a variety of characters. They are not your typical characters, though; they are so brilliantly portrayed they feel like regular, ordinary people. The performances are extraordinary. The atmosphere and melancholy setting play large roles in the monotonous tone, comparable conceivably with the work of Terence Malick. There is an honest and true sentimentality here, like the director, David Gordon Greene, wanted to inject personal and thought-provoking ideas in his innovative style, which sometimes seems a bit preachy.

"George Washington" is one of the most under appreciated movies of 2000. As I look over the Academy Award nominees I am disturbed. For the first time in a long time the members chose box-office successes over movie quality. Among the movies missing from the ballot are "Human Resources," "The Virgin Suicides," and "George Washington." The film is one of the year's most poignant and heartbreaking. Everything that happens here is so lively, so convincing, so extraordinarily absorbing. It is a movie not to be missed by those looking for great underrated movies.
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Lush cinematography but poor story and acting
FearofGod12 July 2003
This movie is more likely to be admired than actually liked. The acting is pretty darn bad and the story is borderline ridiculous, but what holds this movie together is the beautiful cinematography. This film is in the same vain as Gummo, small town, no straight story, and lots of colorful characters. But this movie misses the mark that Gummo hit so dead on, it doesn't make you care or relate to the characters. The characterization in this movie is very insipid. Watching this movie makes you think of its failed potential. Well all in all its a "G" rated Gummo, so watch both and get back at me.
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A lovely film. Meaning?
-8815 March 2002
This film was lovely, and there was dozens of good ideas in it, but it didn't seem sorted out to me, and in the end I felt that I was being invited to take whatever meaning from it I wished. Doesn't that kind of art come rather too easily to the artist? If it were exuberant, you might have that to buoy you, but instead the material is treated very somberly -- it invites you to find meaning in it, and implies that there is much there. But is there? For instance, one scene near the end features a portrait of George Bush, Sr. hanging on a wall; in a film named "George Washington," you naturally look for significance. But later, a friend told me that he had seen an interview with the director in which he mentioned that the portrait was placed more or less arbitrarily in the shot. How many of us found something there that wasn't intended, and that wasn't an organic function of the film? I enjoyed watching "George Washington," but I can't say that I found it satisfying. I'll look forward to Green's next feature -- I only hope his meanings will be both present and better expressed.
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Ambitious debut coldly calculated to emulate a specific type of film
chaos-rampant19 September 2009
Synopsis tells us GW is a 'delicately told and deceptively simple story of a group of children' but what I saw was a coming-of-age slice of minimalist Americana too deliberate to resonate with true emotional gravitas and too restrained and artificial to examine the children as anything else than vessels for whatever fancy monologues DGG put in their mouths, every pause and glance of the movie calculated to emulate a specific type of film, I won't say art-house because I don't consider Terrence Malick whom DGG seems to be channeling an art-house filmmaker and I won't even say southern Gothic because DGG lacks the affinity for the Gothic that made TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD such a good movie (the parts of it that don't have Gregory Peck giving courtroom speeches that is) or Flannery O'Connor's children characters so alive and vivid. Filling the gaps with quirks (argh!!) and lacking the truthfulness and honesty the material deserves, for all it has going for it (a sense of pace and framing, which to me, like I said above, seems a bit too coldly calculated which is not surprising given DGG's age when he made it), Green's debut can be in turns good, amusing, annoying, and embarrassingly bad. But then I remind myself it's the debut of a 25 year old director. While directors who worked in the studio system 50 years ago (in the US, Italy, and Japan) got their chance behind the camera only after painstaking tutelage as assistants and technicians in various posts and got to make plenty of bad-average programme films before they hit their stride, young directors these days are called to succeed on their first film, get a good festival run and maybe a DVD deal if they're lucky, wash dishes to repay credit card debts for the next 10 years if they're not. I don't know what to think about DGG though. UNDERTOW showed significant progress as long as it remained geared towards a taut Night Of the Hunteresque southern-fried thriller and before it regressed back to Green's feeble GW shenanigans for the final act. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS has none of whatever mark these two films taken together would suggest. Although a less ambitious debut, I think his friend Jeff Nichols eclipsed him with (the DGG produced) SHOTGUN STORIES.
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GUMMO without half as much originality.
cintact20 July 2007
The film seemed quite unoriginal. I'm afraid I was disappointed. So many who have seen it who find the interesting or different must be easily impressed. The director was obviously more influenced by GUMMO(1997, Harmony Korine) than the work of Malick or Herzog, which seemed to inspire GUMMO's tone. To make it more obvious, this film came out only a couple of years after GUMMO. While GEORGE WASHINGTON has a couple of moments worth acknowledging, the film seems rather weak in its entirety. The characters may be a bit more likable, but I'm afraid there was little significance to the narrative once the film began in its direction. Now why has Criterion released this on DVD? I don't understand it. I'm afraid I'm usually a bit skeptical when such a film gets released soon after such an impressionable one makes it mark. I'd much rather prefer the most original and creative one.
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