Everything's Gone Green, from author Douglas Coupland's first screenplay, was presented at the Vancouver International Film Festival as the opening film of the Canadian Images series.
Calling it "a love letter to Vancouver," Coupland explained to a hometown crowd at the screening: "I grew up seeing trailers, arrows, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer boxes being put up around the city. For once, I thought it would be nice for us to be ourselves in a movie."
Directed by Paul Fox, Everything's Gone Green is a bit of an insider comedy that plays with nearly every Vancouver stereotype, including the slightly more obscure, such as our habit of appropriating native and Chinese symbols as badges of cool, the celebration of pot culture, and leaky condos.
Paulo Costanzo gives a charming performance as Ryan, a disaffected twenty-something stuck in a soul sucking job, whose apartment features a poster with the slogan "small, manageable dreams." He's a talented photographer by hobby but an "electron pusher" by trade. When he's dumped, evicted, and fired on the same day, he finds his not-so-dream job writing profiles of lottery winners and a spectacular apartment through his brother's shady real estate deals.
The often-hilarious movie will feel comfortingly familiar to fans of Coupland's other work. There are particularly echoes of JPod, his latest novel, with its casual peek behind-the-scenes of the movie industry and the grow op industry, as well as the portrayal of child-like parents caught up in surprising activities and the sleazy scammer who takes our protagonist under his wing. But though it treads familiar Coupland territory, the film is distinctive in the warmth and hope at its core.
Ryan meets Ming (Steph Song), the woman of his dreams - a dream only slightly hampered by her boyfriend, who tempts Ryan with the easy money of his money laundering scheme. As Ryan gets sucked further into that world, he discovers both that integrity is an unusual choice, and that the initial exhilaration of easy money wears off quickly - a point reinforced by his close-up look at lottery winners.
"You have to remember, in Vancouver we really don't do anything here," Coupland said. "We're the semi-sinister product of the global economy, flipping real estate, pushing electrons around with a stick."
Though it's undeniably an affectionate look at the city, Everything's Gone Green is not an idealistic view. The gorgeous cinematography captures the middle-class essence of a scenic city that's usually disguised on screen, and the script captures the spirit - exaggerated though it is - of a place and a person struggling to find authenticity in the midst of superficiality.