If pop culture has taught us anything, it is that celebrities and heroes are often synonymous with each other. We put them on a pedestal and expect them to be these embodiments of perfection. So much so that it never gives them the leverage to make mistakes. One minor slip and the whole world kind of turns against them. Meanwhile, what we forget is that they are humans too, and like everyone, they can make mistakes. The central idea of Lana Reed’s ‘The Green Oak Guardian’ stems from that. It is a film that has forgiveness and second chances as its central theme, but it’s so tonally inconsistent that the idea gets lost somewhere.

To begin with, the film has all the inclination of a small-town comedy. It has a central character who is a genius, some people around who support her, and a life-altering conflict at its center. The 92-minute-long film kicks off with Joanne McSween – a single mother who lives in a small town in Ohio and is the creator of a popular comic book named The Green Oak Guardian. Joanne lives with her little daughter and her father – who serves as a front for herself (being credited as the creator JT McSween instead of Joanne). Her comic book has acquired quite a buzz, and a comic-book adaptation is in the work. Hollywood heartthrob Grayson Kane (Houston Rhines) has been roped in to play the lead character, but Joanne isn’t too fond of the choice. The reasons lie in the fact that Kane has recently become infamous for his late-night exploits, and his casting has really rubbed everyone, including Joanne, the wrong way.

The movie really kicks in when Kane’s agent tells him to head over to the small town where he is to shoot the movie and turn JT McSween on his side and save his face. Joanna, under the guise of her alias, has been giving interviews where her prejudice makes her question the actor’s moral ethics, and Grayson, who has been struggling on the Box Office front, is now eager to turn things around. Soon, we see him on the McSween residence’s doorstep, and in spite of the unwelcoming welcome from Joanne, he settles in and tries to clear his image in front of the comic-book creator (who he assumes to be Joanne’s father instead of her).

Now, everything that follows is fairly predictable and harmless, but let’s dive into the positives here. I appreciate the fact that director Lana Reed has a really interesting premise at hand. A Hollywood actor being humanized as a person who can love, is vulnerable, and is a true gentleman is a novel idea. The fact that it also talks about a woman who has put all her creative juices and her traumas into her work, conjuring a concrete front for herself, only for it to shed away slowly, is another nice plot point to explore.

However, much like her previous directorial venture, Forbearance, everything else just falls flat. On paper, The Green Oak Guardian might feel like an interesting enough story, but the execution is so lackluster and exhausting that you are left feeling dissatisfied. One of the main reasons is how Reed stages her scenes. Every other sequence feels like it is cut from a different cloth than the one prior to it. She cuts from an emotionally involving sequence to a totally different setting without letting you soak into the tone she is going for. This inconsistency also leads the actors to give over-the-top performances that never let you settle into the story’s thematic elements.

Sure, it’s an average film that tries to tell a nice story about second chances, redemption, and love finding its way to you, but the distractions and conflicts are so uncomfortably placed into the narrative that you don’t get much out of it. It also doesn’t help that the rom-com tone that the film finally settles down on doesn’t feel convincing enough for it to remain the least bit memorable.

Read More: Interface (2023) Review: This Low-Budget Multiverse Film Is Well-Intentioned But Fails To Execute Its Grand Narrative

The Green Oak Guardian Movie (2023) Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Green Oak Guardian Movie (2023) Cast – Abi Van Andel, Houston Rhines, Duffy Hudson

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