A well-crafted if overly schematic drama, "The Green" probes homophobia and the usual guilty-until-proven-innocent reaction to child-abuse charges.

A well-crafted if overly schematic drama, “The Green” probes homophobia and the usual guilty-until-proven-innocent reaction to child-abuse charges when a Connecticut high school teacher is wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior with a student he’s mentored. Mix of stage, tube and bigscreen talents in front of and behind the camera contribute solid work to an involving tale that nonetheless sports a certain telepic-level literal-mindedness, cramming too many social issues into one frame. Results will play best in home formats.

Wanting to “see some green” after years of urban life, Michael (Jason Butler Harner) persuaded reluctant partner Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson) to leave Manhattan for a duly leafy if somewhat conservative New England burg. Now Daniel runs a local cafe while Michael teaches literature at a private high school where he’s particularly empathetic toward Jason (Chris Bert), a bright but shy scholarship student with a rough home life.

Jason is increasingly picked on at school; not realizing his own attentions are attracting the bullies, Michael intervenes during one such scuffle and gets a surprising “Don’t touch me!” response from the boy. That awkward moment is interpreted as evidence of possible criminal misconduct, a suspicion fanned by mean-spirited janitor Leo (Bill Sage), who happens to be the new live-in boyfriend of Jason’s recovered drug-addict mother, Jeannette (Karen Young). Suddenly Michael finds himself suspended from work, besieged by scandal-seeking media, and ostracized (along with Dan) by much of the community. Meanwhile, Jason keeps frustratingly mum, then drops out of school and runs away from home.

It stretches credulity that Michael would continue to behave so stupidly even as the stakes keep rising: Insisting it’s all one big misunderstanding, he keeps making impulsive moves that only make his case look more dubious in the public eye. The stress strains his relationship with loyal Dan, as well as with remaining allies like fellow teacher Trish (Illeana Douglas), who already has enough on her plate dealing with a cancer relapse. Finally agreeing to hire a lawyer, Michael balks at the hardball defense tactics recommended by lesbian counsel Karen (Julia Ormond).

Screenplay by Paul Marcarelli (best known as Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy) is intelligent but overstuffed, further complicating an already busy narrative agenda with gay-marriage discussion, a past criminal offense revelation, home-repair catastrophe and a too-neat conclusion. Theater and TV soap veteran Steven Williford nonetheless lends the proceedings polish and conviction, helped by an expert cast and handsome production values. Results are earnest and engrossing, if less so than they might have been had the script bitten off no more than it could fully chew.

The Green

Production

A Table Ten Films presentation. Produced by Paul Marcarelli, Molly Pearson, Steven Williford. Executive producers, Marcarelli, Williford. Directed by Steven Williford. Screenplay, Paul Marcarelli, from a story by Marcarelli, Williford.

Crew

Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Ryan Samul; editor, Phillip J. Bartell; music, William Brittelle; production designer, Lucio Seixas; art director, Cassia Maher; costume designer, Bobby Frederick Tilley II; sound, Mikhaik Sterkin; sound designer, John Moros; re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger; associate producers, Randall Fryman, Sharon Michaels; assistant diretor, Patrick Mangan; casting, Todd Thaler. Reviewed at Frameline (U.S. Features), San Francisco, June 17, 2011. (Also in Outfest, NewFest.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Jason Butler Harner, Cheyenne Jackson, Bill Sage, Karen Young, Chris Bert, Mary McCann, Boris McGiver, Marcia Debonis, Mark Blum, Michael Godere, Laura Esterman, Tom Bloom, Illeana Douglas, Julia Ormond.

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