Greener Mountains
by Phil Boatwright

Not rated.

New on DVD, the 89 minute drama stars Chris Heuisler (As the World Turns, Freaky Friday) and two-time Emmy® Award-winner Kimberly McCullough (General Hospital, Joan of Arcadia, Legally Blonde) star in the film, which shot on location in Santa Barbara County .  The film also stars M. Emmet Walsh (My Best Friend’s Wedding, A Time to Kill), Brad Raider (That Was Then, The Trouble With Normal), Kevin Durand (Walking Tall, The Butterfly Effect), Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds, Better Off Dead). Written by Hector Hill.  Directed by Lee Shallat Chemel.

FLM SYNOPSIS:  JP Barton is an adopted boy raised on a throwback Vermont family resort (though it is shot in CA).  Since being found as an infant by the mercurial aging owner, JP has essentially never left the resort grounds.  But with the arrival of a young, free-spirited New York artist, Alice Flynn, his sheltered life is suddenly turned upside down.  Her arrival, plus a convergence of events, propels JP on a bumpy ride of self-discovery.  It’s not until JP accepts who he is, that he realizes what’s most important to him.  Greener Mountains is a story of finding out where you belong in the world and discovering that who you are is often more than enough.

PREVIEW REVIEW:  Four-time Emmy-nominated director Lee Shallat-Chemel (Gilmore Girls, Arrested Development, Bernie Mac- they give Emmys to those shows?) marks her feature film directorial debut – and it feels it.  Though the director is skilled, the production is limited, feeling more like a Hallmark Hall Of Fame special.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Hallmark. They’ve done many impressive dramas over the years, but too often TV productions lack detail and focus visually apparent on the big screen.  Characters and themes are often clichéd – something theatrical directors are supposed to avoid.  (I said, supposed to avoid.)  Though it is being released on DVD, still it is competing with theatrical releases and should therefore avoid the trappings of television.

The story deals with following your dreams even when everything and everyone seems to be conspiring against them.  And the film is filled with pretty locales.  But there are two problems.  I didn’t like the main character, who’s dumber than dirt and insensitive to others, and the old lady at one point attempts to impart wisdom by telling the young man that if you’re going to find purpose in religion, it doesn’t matter which one you choose – “they’re all just a guess.”  The focus of the production then turns to finding true happiness through loving someone.

It’s steeped in clichés and overused characterizations such as villainous deceptions (the bad guy wants to take over the place in order to make money – something I’m not opposed to, except that he’s willing to kill the old lady in order to do it) and simple misunderstandings (the beloved girl hears only part of a conversation – the part that makes the hero look like a duffus, missing the part that makes him sound like a true romantic and a good guy – well, we’ve never seen that before).

Waterfall Films is a Los Angeles-based independent production company “focused on creating film and television programming for a multi-generational audience.”  Note to Waterfall Films:  Don’t like religion?  Okay, that’s your business.  But why imply that faith in God isn’t important?  What did that have to do with the rest of your story?  And why profane God’s name or use Jesus’ name as if it were a mere expletive for relieving frustration?  You work in television; didn’t you think some viewers might object to profaning the Creator’s name?  There are those who would enjoy your production if you didn’t belittle their religious beliefs.  Since you want to gear your productions toward multi-generational audience, here’s what you need to decide:  You can try to convince a country that is still predominately Christian that we don’t need to reverence the Almighty, or, you can make more money by offering your product to people who will take to your dramas if you don’t come across as anti-God.  Choice is yours

Not rated, the production contains a couple of obscenities (the s-word) and is peppered with minor expletives (damns, hells, ass) and a couple of profanities (GD, Jesus); an implied sex scene; a character dying of cancer; some social drinking and a drunk scene.