An Irish-set comedy-drama, Turning Green is not particularly comic or compellingly dramatic, but it’s at least somewhat Irish—albeit in a superficial kind of way. After all, it features that signifier of Irishness, Colm Meaney, showing up to play a good natured boozer who makes frequent use of the word “fecking.” Otherwise, in Michael Aimette and John G. Hofmann’s film, Erin is a land of bright greens, dowdy women, and foul-mouthed preachers. But not pornography, at least until 16-year-old James (Donal Gallery) arrives. Sent to live on the Emerald Isle with his Irish aunts after the death of his American mother, the enterprising young lad combines his love of jerking off with his need for money and begins importing girlie mags from London to serve a porn-depleted population. The only problem is this racket puts him at odds with the local bookmaker who doesn’t take kindly to having a competitor as the town’s only illegal earner.
Would that the film’s problems were so simple. Its comedy (too much of which centers around James’s masturbatory angst or portrait-of-the-locals tomfoolery, as when his aunts discuss his constipation over dinner with a priest) is dead-on-arrival, its supporting characters are barely there (Timothy Hutton, as the bookie’s enforcer, is confined to scowling and saying things like “It fucking stinks of shite in here”) and its moments of dramatic reflection unfold in lazy montages set to singer-songwriter mush. Structure, too, is a problem, as the film never seems quite sure of what direction to take, so that its central narrative strand, the selling of pornography, isn’t introduced until nearly two-thirds of the way in. A few early scenes between James and his little brother (Gallery and Killian Morgan have an appealing, unforced chemistry) and an animated title sequence in which a New York City subway improbably travels from Brooklyn to the Erin countryside offer initial promise, but by the time of the movie’s hasty, sloppily contrived conclusion this potential has dissolved, as it were, into a mass of lumpy Irish stew.