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‘Green Card’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 11, 1991


Peter Weir
Gerard Depardieu;
Andie MacDowell;
Bebe Neuwirth
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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It's instandly forgettable, but "Green Card," about a marriage of convenience between immigrant Gerard Depardieu and apartment hunter Andie MacDowell, is nonetheless pleasing. It sheds no light on the real world of arranged marriages, illegal aliens or culture clashes but it allows French actor Depardieu to work up an amusing performance.

He's a Frenchman (surprise!), who needs permanent U.S. residency to work in New York. A mutual friend sets him up with MacDowell, a prissy horticulturalist who needs to be married in order to secure the sublet of her dreams, an apartment with an exotic greenhouse.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service gets suspicious, however, and sets up an investigative interview. Suddenly the faux newlyweds have to get together fast and learn about each other.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even a Hollywood scriptwriter, to figure out where this When-Gerry-Met-Andie affair is going. But the screwball marriage has a lighthearted airiness. Depardieu, in his first major English-speaking role, turns his language hurdle into a comic asset. He's comically tongue-tied, as he attempts to convince INS officials that he is her husband and to assure MacDowell's family and boyfriend that he isn't.

At one point, when the officials ask the couple how they met, he improvises a desperate anecdote about bumping into MacDowell and making her drop her parcels. Then, getting over-excited, he starts talking about his parcels.

"Oh you had parcels too?" asks the lady official. "Oh," says Depardieu, "everyone 'ad parcels."

MacDowell uses the same finishing-school hauteur she did in "sex, lies, and videotape" to good effect. "You silly . . . French . . . oaf!" she calls him in a moment of exasperation.

There are other amusing moments: To create a fake photo collection of happy highlights from the past, Depardieu dresses up in various costumes, from swimsuit to skiing clothes, and has MacDowell take Polaroid shots. When sitting down to interview the couple, the immigration officials snap open their briefcases and click their ballpoints with slapstick synchronicity.

It is slightly disconcerting to realize that this pleasant but lightweight movie was produced, directed and written by Peter Weir. This means Touchstone Pictures didn't throw this the Australian director's way; he came up with it himself. Although Weir is best known for popular hits such as "Dead Poets Society" and "Witness," there was a time when he was an original director, with moody works like "Picnic at Hanging Rock," "The Last Wave" and the grimly funny "The Plumber." Does he remember? Or is this movie part of an application for a green card?

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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