Everything's Gone Green Commentary

For a novelist, making the transition from writing something meant to be read, to writing something that will be seen, can be tricky. Dialogue and image need to drive a film in ways that are distinct from how they operate in novels. The job is easier if the novelist is comfortable with dialogue, which is true of Douglas Coupland, and even easier if the novelist-screenwriter has a background in the graphic arts, which is also the case with Coupland. The collaboration between Director, Paul Fox, and Writer, Douglas Coupland, therefore provides a strong foundation for the romantic comedy, Everything’s Gone Green (2006).

Starting from the notion that life is better with “Small Manageable Dreams,” Coupland presents us with a protagonist who hasn’t quite figured that out yet.  Ryan (Paul Costanzo) works in the IT industry in a cubicle, in an office tower somewhere in Vancouver. He is in his late twenties, bored, and unproductive. Within the first few minutes of the film, he has lost both his job and his girlfriend. Coupland has essentially set his young hero free from the usual constraints of society; in terms of narrative, he is now ready for an adventure. But this is the twenty-first century, not the age of epic adventure. Ryan has no idea who he is, no goal, and nowhere in particular to go… except, perhaps, down.

The first hint that his moral compass is spinning out of control is a phone call from his mother. His father has lost his job, but won the Lottery. The problem is that he can’t find the ticket. Can Ryan come over to help? The whole family turns out to search the house for the ticket. While they all run around looking under teacups and behind the furniture, it becomes clear that his father also hated his job and, like Ryan, has no notion of what to do without one. It is as if the job were the moral regulator of his life.  Ryan locates the ticket, but then a call to the BC Lotteries office reveals that it is the wrong number. His parents are suddenly adrift; in the weeks that follow, Ryan’s mother makes repeated calls to her son complaining that she doesn’t know what to do with an aimless and unhappy husband under foot. His father becomes enmeshed in the dream of easy riches in a pyramid scam. Ryan is shocked a few weeks later by the discovery that his parents have moved on from skin products to running a marijuana grow-op in their basement. In quick succession, Ryan’s parents have replaced their big money lottery dreams with pyramid sales dreams and now with big dreams of BC “bud.” If anyone should provide Ryan with moral guidance, it ought to be his parents, but they are even more adrift than he is.

Since Ryan is temporarily out of a job, his brother, Alan (Aidan Devine), finds him an apartment for free in an empty, highrise condo that he manages. It seems that the owners of these condo apartments are all wealthy Chinese from Hong Kong who invested in BC real estate as a hedge against the Communist take-over of their city in the late 1990s. After the repatriation of Hong Kong, business remained pretty much as usual, so they never took up residence in Vancouver. However, their self-serving interference in the Vancouver real estate market has driven prices unrealistically high. It is now difficult for residents to purchase a home at all. On Ryan’s car radio, we hear a story about Vancouver’s infamous “leaky condos.” Ordinary people whose only investment is a modest townhouse, have been seeking redress for shoddy building practices that have ruined their homes.

Ryan is not in one of those leaky condos. He’s in an expensive building and, almost immediately, gets a new job. Kevin (Peter Kalamis), the man he spoke to on the phone about his father’s lottery number, offers him a job interviewing people who have won the Lottery. At first, Ryan is delighted with the work. All the winners are overjoyed with their newfound wealth. Ryan covers the walls of his apartment with enlarged photos of the winners he has talked to. But, as time passes, Ryan sees how few of them gain any lasting happiness. In fact, within a year, most of them are miserable, their epic dreams of wealth and comfort destroyed by greed.

It is while he is working at the Lottery magazine, Winners, that he meets Ming (Steph Song). Hearing a radio report about a beached whale, he walks down to the waterfront to see it. People drift reverently up to place their hands on its side. Ming has also been drawn by curiosity to see this pathetic sight. Inadvertently she gets in the way of Ryan’s camera shot and they strike up a conversation. This chance meeting results in another get-rich-quick opportunity. Ming’s boyfriend, Bryce (J.R. Bourne), is both a golf course designer and con artist. When Bryce learns that Ryan works at the Lottery office, he tempts him with easy money. Ryan is to get in touch with Bryce every time he receives a call from a big money winner. Bryce will then contact the winner and offer cash for the winning ticket. This allows him to launder money for wealthy Asian gangsters. Ryan is so well paid for his complicity that he soon acquires a real leather jacket and a bright yellow sports car. He knows he is doing the wrong thing, but convinces himself that it doesn’t matter, since the lottery winners still get their money.

Of course, this won’t last. In true Coupland fashion, the hero sort of realizes who he really is, at which point, the plot sort of stops. Since meeting Ming, Ryan has fallen in love with her. She takes him home to meet her Granny (Chiu-Lin Tam). They live in a little, old bungalow and they are happy. The three of them go places together. Granny likes Ryan. They have fun. Ming tells Ryan that she likes her job in Vancouver’s movie industry, but that she would like to do something “real.” When she also tells him that she has broken up with Bryce, because she can’t be herself around him, Ryan realizes that he must change or lose her. Life with Ming and Granny will be his “small manageable dream.”

 

Everything’s Gone Green won the award for Best Canadian Feature at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2006; was nominated for eight Leos in 2007, winning for Best Feature Length Drama and Best Screenplay in a Feature Length Drama; as well as receiving the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film (J.R. Bourne).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a novelist, making the transition from writing something meant to be read, to writing something that will be seen, can be tricky. Dialogue and image need to drive a film in ways that are distinct from how they operate in novels. The job is easier if the novelist is comfortable with dialogue, which is true of Douglas Coupland, and even easier if the novelist-screenwriter has a background in the graphic arts, which is also the case with Coupland. The collaboration between Director, Paul Fox, and Writer, Douglas Coupland, therefore provides a strong foundation for the romantic comedy, Everything’s Gone Green (2006).

 

Starting from the notion that life is better with “Small Manageable Dreams,” Coupland presents us with a protagonist who hasn’t quite figured that out yet.  Ryan (Paul Costanzo) works in the IT industry in a cubicle, in an office tower somewhere in Vancouver. He is in his late twenties, bored, and unproductive. Within the first few minutes of the film, he has lost both his job and his girlfriend. Coupland has essentially set his young hero free from the usual constraints of society; in terms of narrative, he is now ready for an adventure. But this is the twenty-first century, not the age of epic adventure. Ryan has no idea who he is, no goal, and nowhere in particular to go… except, perhaps, down.

 

The first hint that his moral compass is spinning out of control is a phone call from his mother. His father has lost his job, but won the Lottery. The problem is that he can’t find the ticket. Can Ryan come over to help? The whole family turns out to search the house for the ticket. While they all run around looking under teacups and behind the furniture, it becomes clear that his father also hated his job and, like Ryan, has no notion of what to do without one. It is as if the job were the moral regulator of his life.  Ryan locates the ticket, but then a call to the BC Lotteries office reveals that it is the wrong number. His parents are suddenly adrift; in the weeks that follow, Ryan’s mother makes repeated calls to her son complaining that she doesn’t know what to do with an aimless and unhappy husband under foot. His father becomes enmeshed in the dream of easy riches in a pyramid scam. Ryan is shocked a few weeks later by the discovery that his parents have moved on from skin products to running a marijuana grow-op in their basement. In quick succession, Ryan’s parents have replaced their big money lottery dreams with pyramid sales dreams and now with big dreams of BC “bud.” If anyone should provide Ryan with moral guidance, it ought to be his parents, but they are even more adrift than he is.

 

Since Ryan is temporarily out of a job, his brother, Alan (Aidan Devine), finds him an apartment for free in an empty, highrise condo that he manages. It seems that the owners of these condo apartments are all wealthy Chinese from Hong Kong who invested in BC real estate as a hedge against the Communist take-over of their city in the late 1990s. After the repatriation of Hong Kong, business remained pretty much as usual, so they never took up residence in Vancouver. However, their self-serving interference in the Vancouver real estate market has driven prices unrealistically high. It is now difficult for residents to purchase a home at all. On Ryan’s car radio, we hear a story about Vancouver’s infamous “leaky condos.” Ordinary people whose only investment is a modest townhouse, have been seeking redress for shoddy building practices that have ruined their homes.

 

Ryan is not in one of those leaky condos. He’s in an expensive building and, almost immediately, gets a new job. Kevin (Peter Kalamis), the man he spoke to on the phone about his father’s lottery number, offers him a job interviewing people who have won the Lottery. At first, Ryan is delighted with the work. All the winners are overjoyed with their newfound wealth. Ryan covers the walls of his apartment with enlarged photos of the winners he has talked to. But, as time passes, Ryan sees how few of them gain any lasting happiness. In fact, within a year, most of them are miserable, their epic dreams of wealth and comfort destroyed by greed.

 

It is while he is working at the Lottery magazine, Winners, that he meets Ming (Steph Song). Hearing a radio report about a beached whale, he walks down to the waterfront to see it. People drift reverently up to place their hands on its side. Ming has also been drawn by curiosity to see this pathetic sight. Inadvertently she gets in the way of Ryan’s camera shot and they strike up a conversation. This chance meeting results in another get-rich-quick opportunity. Ming’s boyfriend, Bryce (J.R. Bourne), is both a golf course designer and con artist. When Bryce learns that Ryan works at the Lottery office, he tempts him with easy money. Ryan is to get in touch with Bryce every time he receives a call from a big money winner. Bryce will then contact the winner and offer cash for the winning ticket. This allows him to launder money for wealthy Asian gangsters. Ryan is so well paid for his complicity that he soon acquires a real leather jacket and a bright yellow sports car. He knows he is doing the wrong thing, but convinces himself that it doesn’t matter, since the lottery winners still get their money.

 

Of course, this won’t last. In true Coupland fashion, the hero sort of realizes who he really is, at which point, the plot sort of stops. Since meeting Ming, Ryan has fallen in love with her. She takes him home to meet her Granny (Chiu-Lin Tam). They live in a little, old bungalow and they are happy. The three of them go places together. Granny likes Ryan. They have fun. Ming tells Ryan that she likes her job in Vancouver’s movie industry, but that she would like to do something “real.” When she also tells him that she has broken up with Bryce, because she can’t be herself around him, Ryan realizes that he must change or lose her. Life with Ming and Granny will be his “small manageable dream.”

 

Everything’s Gone Green won the award for Best Canadian Feature at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2006; was nominated for eight Leos in 2007, winning for Best Feature Length Drama and Best Screenplay in a Feature Length Drama; as well as receiving the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film (J.R. Bourne).

 Evelyn Ellerman