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GREENFINGERS (director/writer: Joel Hershman; screenwriter: based on an article in The New York Times , “Free to Grow Bluebells in England,” by Paula Deitz; cinematographer: John Daly; editor: Justin Krish; music: Guy Dagul; cast: Clive Owen (Colin Briggs), Helen Mirren (Georgina Woodhouse), David Kelly (Fergus Wilks), Warren Clarke (Governor Hodge), Danny Dyer (Tony), Adam Fogerty (Raw), Paterson Joseph (Jimmy), Natasha Little (Primrose Woodhouse) Peter Guiness (Dudley), Julie Saunders (Sarah), Lucy Punch (Holly), Sally Edwards (Susan Hodge); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Travis Swords/Daniel J. Victor/Trudie Styler; Fireworks Pictures-Samuel Goldwyn Films; 2000)
Lacks dramatic credibility despite being a true story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It seems like the Full Monty bullshit again. Loosely inspired by a 1998 article by Paula Deitz in The New York Times about a gardening program in the Leyhill Prison, which offers a newly minted real open prison in the Cotswolds and allows the convicts to roam the expansive country grounds without supervision. The inexperienced filmmaker, the Brooklyn born writer-director Joel Hershman(“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me“), is out of his element in this social conscious melodrama trying to mine for comedy and at the same time tell a feel-good inspirational story.

Career criminal Colin Briggs (Clive Owen), imprisoned since a teenager and now serving a life- sentence for the murder of his brother, is transferred to the Edgefield Prison (a fictionalized prison) located in the Cotswolds, which is a minimum-security prison. Governor Hodge (Warren Clarke) orders him to instal a garden, as his father-figure cellmate Fergus (David Kelly) preaches about forbearance and is a garden expert. The prisoner’s creative flower beds catch the attention of the local celebrity flower maven Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren), which leads to Colin’s team doing out-reach work and becoming a competitor in the Hampton Court Palace show. Georgina’s pretty daughter Primrose (Natasha Little) also catches Colin’s eye, as the reformed convict contemplates a fresh start as a free man as opposed to the no stress life in prison.

The sentimental story of redemption is too sugary for my taste, and is too didactic for me to be entertained by such mush. The pic seemed out of step with the new century, and lacks dramatic credibility despite being a true story.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”