“Inspired by true events,” earnest but clunky inspirational drama “A Green Story” chronicles the struggles of a Greek emigre who rises from poverty to become the leading inventor of eco-friendly household cleaning solvents. It’s about as exciting as that sounds, despite reasonably slick presentation by writer-director-producer Nika Agiashivili. Some familiar names in supporting roles will help boost visibility, but prospects for the pic (which opens theatrically in New York and Los Angeles this Friday) are modest at best in any format.
Played in maturity by Ed O’Ross, Van Vlahakis is a gloomy self-made man who’s owner and CEO of “Earth-Friendly Products,” an innovator in the field of “green” detergents. Flashbacks reveal his angst
as stemming from the childhood loss of a father to Nazi occupiers; a rough initial landing in the U.S., including time in a homeless shelter (with George Finn as the young adult Van); and the loss of a first marriage to workaholism. In the present tense, the chemist-turned-entrepreneur continues to battle, trying to get his company’s products into the mass market as he’s facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.
While it must have seemed the stuff of true drama to the filmmakers, none of this is very compelling in the telling, suggesting that a documentary about the real-life “inspiration” might have been more effective than this attempt to make his saga engrossing in fictionalized terms. Tepid major thread of suspense rests on Van’s stubborn push to get his products in big-box chain stores, opposed by Malcolm McDowell as a rival manufacturer’s shill; neither that, the protag’s health crisis, nor the flashbacks manage more than a flat one-dimensionality.
This latter quality handicaps the supporting thesps, who include Shannon Elizabeth, Billy Zane and Roger Bart. Annabella Sciorra plays a potential love interest (not the first) drawn to the apparently irresistible Van, who nonetheless appears entirely resistible in O’Ross’ glum, unattractive central performance. Some bit-part players are notably weak, and seem to have been cast for reasons other than actual acting ability.
The film’s primary failure is that it never conveys the internal passion of a man willing to sacrifice everything to make the world a better (and cleaner) place. Instead, Van seems like a sullen bore. It doesn’t help “A Green Story’s” case that it resolves his health crisis and other dangling plot threads
in credulity-stretching, all-too-convenient fashion at the last minute. Packaging is straightforwardly pro.