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With: Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, Warren Clarke, Danny Dyer, Adam Fogerty, Paterson Joseph, Natasha Little
Written by: Joel Hershman
Directed by: Joel Hershman
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/10/2000

Greenfingers (2001)

2 Stars (out of 4)

All Thumbs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few years ago, The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine offered a refreshingly working-class view of England and Ireland. Both were breezy and crafty and alive, and both were big hits here in the States.

So needless to say, an army of imitators came forth, films such as Among Giants, The Dish and Blow Dry. Like most carbon copies, these later efforts lacked the zing and freshness of the originals. The new Greenfingers sadly joins them.

Greenfingers centers around a disparate group of working class men, prisoners in a low-level security facility. One of them, the requisite "old fellow" named Fergus (played by David Kelly from Waking Ned Devine) keeps a plant in his room. A new, rock-faced stoic prisoner named Colin (Clive Owen, from Croupier) ends up rooming with old Fergus and is forced to take care of the little plant while Fergus goes to the prison hospital for a few days.

As a reward, Fergus gives Colin a packet of flower seeds. Colin half-heartedly plants them in the yard -- partially to get Fergus off his back -- and despite some pretty nasty soil, they grow. The warden takes an interest in this small miracle and forms a mandatory gardening club that includes Fergus and Colin, as well as Tony (Danny Dyer), Raw (Adam Fogerty) and Jimmy (Paterson Joseph).

The first hurdle, of course, consists of these so-called tough guys resisting gardening then getting into it and developing their own green thumbs. A Martha Stewart-like gardening guru named Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren) and her daughter Primrose (Natasha Little) come to see their work and Colin and Primrose fall in love.

Following that, we get the usual Big Gardening Show in which the men struggle to compete, and the big scene where their work is destroyed and they have to come up with something new at the last second.

American writer/director Joel Hershman (Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me) lays down the template for his second film and sticks to it unwaveringly throughout. Not a breath of fresh air or originality comes through. We even have the obligatory "dead/baby" scenes in which one character dies of cancer and another gets pregnant, blatantly signifying the "circle of life."

What's astonishing to me is that Greenfingers was supposedly based on a true story, and yet none of it feels true.

But where the director fails, his actors take up the slack. Kelly, Owen and Mirren deliver delightfully disarming performances, and thanks to them I got through Greenfingers without squirming too much.

But for a movie about growing plants, this bland mixture doesn't have much chance of raising anything more than a few smiles, much less anything providing oxygen.
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