Snow Angels is an ironic, wintry tale of discontent and isolation positioned in a smaller Pennsylvania locale.
Writer/director David Gordon Green adapts Stewart O'Nan's book, moving the action from the 70s to the present. He brings his lyrical scalings to the material, suggesting our place in nature. There is harsh happenstance on the horizon, ultimately with tragic repercussion that put characters in an unsteady place of having to see how they fit among one another.
Michael Anagarano's Arthur is a high schooler/trombonist, toiling at a Chinese restaurant with ex-baby-sitter Annie (Kate Beckinsale). He still is slightly infatuated with her, while a bit timid when a girl in his age group, well played by Olivia Thirlby, wants to get to know him.
While Arthur is dealing with the separation of his parents, Annie is in a relationship with the husband (Nicky Katt) of a colleague, Barb, sprly done by Amy Sedaris. Annie has much on her plate as a mother while trying to keep her born-again Christian husband, Glenn (Sam Rockwell of Joshua), with whom she's also separated from, at a distance.
Snow Angels goes through different mood changes while a typically understated Green gives feeling to the place these insecure folks inhabit. The use of natural wit is good for something that could have been deeply despondent. The capturing of the innocence of young love is something Green does quite well again here with Anagarano and Thirlby, as he showed in All the Real Girls. And, Beckinsale shows like other photogenic thespians of her ilk that she can damper down the glamor for depth of character, especially opposite a ranging, reckless Rockwell.
With the help of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Green is finding his Pineapple Express into Hollywood later this year. Even with such a darkly more resolving coda, his new, gestating melodrama is mostly balanced, fading sharply from those who happen to lead lives of quiet desperation.