A number of high-profile dramas have been shot and set amongst the immaculately manicured lawns and well-preserved historical homes of the Connecticut suburbs, among them Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road, the movie Kate Winslet should have won the Oscar for, and (although not explicitly stated) Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, in which Rock Hudson does a bang-up job of looking like he's actually into women (in this case Jane Wyman).
The newest in this long tradition is The Green, an American indie that was set and shot entirely in Guilford, Connecticut, and is released (after a platform on-demand roll-out) on DVD on November 22nd.
A surprisingly nuanced story about a gay teacher (Jason Butler Harner) who gets embroiled in a sex scandal involving a high school student he mentors, the movie could have easily toppled over into bad campy melodrama. Instead, it's a multifaceted tale with great performances by Harner, "30 Rock"'s Cheyenne Jackson (as Harner's longtime beau), and, most potently, Julia Ormond as Harner's lesbian lawyer.
I got to chat with its writer/co-producer Paul Marcarelli, who many will recognize as the "Can you hear me now?" guy from the Verizon commercials, about the genesis of the film, and what it meant to the movie, both practically and from a narrative standpoint, to shoot in Connecticut.
Marcarelli told me he has "so many ties" to the area — he was born and raised in North Haven, went to school at Fairfield University, and lives in Guilford, Connecticut (he also has an apartment in Brooklyn). Now that he's shot a movie once in his own backyard, he says, "I really couldn't imagine shooting anywhere else. I want to shoot every film at home now."
He said it was important to set the movie here as well, because, "Connecticut is one of the few states where it's legal for homosexuals to marry. It would have been easy to set the movie in a place where there's overt bigotry, but it's a little more subtle here."
And what of the controversial nature of the project? This is, after all, a movie that deals with not only homosexuality (a subject that, if we're to believe the Republicans, a lot of people are still squirmy about) but also childhood abuse, and cancer; pretty dark stuff. Marcarelli says, emphatically, no.
"Not at all! It was fantastic," he says. "The town rolled out the red carpet for us — we ran riot in peoples' homes, businesses closed down for us to shoot there, the police department, the fire department — everybody got behind us. And there were no issues with the film's content."
Most filmmakers dream of seeing their movie in multiplexes across the land, but The Green had a different approach, first appearing on cable's On Demand service and via iTunes, before having a limited theatrical run and, now, a home video release. Marcarelli seemed thrilled.
"I think it's an innovative, digitally-led strategy," he said of the VOD roll out. "Listen, in our opening weekend, we were in 55 million homes. And we've played 75 cities at major worldwide festivals, which is probably a bigger push than we would have got on our theatrical run."
While he is quick to point out that "I'm not ready to declare the death of cinema," he said that "early on our goal was to reach the widest possible audience." Well, through this strategy, he accomplished just that. He also proved that maybe the Connecticut suburbs are a little more cutting edge than you might have thought.