Pictured above: a quiet moment from writer/director David Gordon Green’s 2000 feature-film debut George Washington. It’s a low-key contemplation of rural life, maturity, haunting regrets, and atonement through heroism (including a pivotal scene that echoes the tragedy of Uncle Ben), but the important thing at this moment is the film’s final scenes are set on the Fourth of July, which therefore means it’s a Beloved Holiday Classic. Pity they never seem to have copies on sale in every Walmart every June, but I don’t think they’re on speaking terms with Criterion.
Our protagonist is young George (Donald Holden), a kid driven by his conscience to do good deeds all around town, sometimes at the expense of his own safety. The above scene takes place after their annual July 4th parade, with acrobats and marching military and local organizations and fireworks and whatnot. George happens by the barbershop, where the elder who played Uncle Sam is getting a haircut, presumably before his hot date at the evening fireworks show or whatever he does with his Independence Nights. Adding another act of generosity to his list, George pops in long enough to tell Uncle Sam, “I just want to say I enjoyed the parade today. I thought you were the best part.”
The scene ends there, its simplicity deceptive and speaking volumes in context. In that brief exchange of pleasantries — something that happens too rarely among today’s strangers on the street — Green captures much about the idealized version of America, a glimpse of a boy growing up into a better man, and a nod toward symbols that mean different things depending on the viewer. It’s kindness and unity and gentle human decency as idyllic poetry, an image of what was and/or what could be.
Whether you spend it boggling at overhead explosions, luxuriating in much-needed relaxation, or elsewhere having an ordinary Thursday and wishing it were Friday, we here at Midlife Crisis Crossover wish one and all the best July 4th for you ‘n’ yours, and a round of pleasantries for everyone.