Though it's not that gracefully told and sometimes seems to exist just to plug eco-friendly cleaning supplies, "A Green Story" holds interest as a gentle, old-fashioned look at achieving the American dream. Credit veteran character actor Ed O'Ross ("Full Metal Jacket," "Six Feet Under"), who plays Greek immigrant and Earth Friendly Products founder Van Vlahakis with such avuncular warmth and decency for holding together this bumpy biopic.
Writer-director Nick Agiashvili flips back and forth in time, starting present-day as a 70ish Vlahakis faces a health crisis while juggling the demands of his slipping, family-run company. Flashbacks follow to 1942 Crete, where 7-year-old Van watched his father die at the hands of Nazi occupiers, and to 1950s and '60s Chicago as young adult Vlahakis (George Finn) goes from poor, novice chemist and distracted family man to creator of what would become the world's top-selling green laundry soap.
The film wrings little juice from the decidedly non-cinematic world of detergent sales. Vlahakis' eco-pioneering also feels underexplored. But it's the latter-day Van's unfussy charm and principled resolve with family, co-workers and a new romantic interest (a luminous Annabella Sciorra) that keeps us invested in the man and his unique success.
Shannon Elizabeth offers support as Vlahakis' businesswoman daughter, while Billy Zane, Malcolm McDowell, Roger Bart and Louis Mandylor pop up in smaller roles.
'A Green Story'
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In English, Greek and German with English subtitles.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun