Brontë Parrish (MacDowell), a horticulturalist and an environmentalist, enters into a sham marriage with Georges Fauré (Depardieu), an illegal alien from France, so he may obtain a green card. In turn, Brontë uses her fake marriage credentials to rent the apartment of her dreams. After moving in, to explain her spouse's absence, she tells the doorman and neighbors he is conducting musical research in Africa.
Contacted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for an interview to determine if her marriage is legitimate, Brontë tracks down Georges, who is working as a waiter. Although the two have little time to get their facts straight, the agents who question them appear to be satisfied with their answers. But when one of the agents asks to use the bathroom and Georges directs him to a closet, their suspicions are aroused, and they schedule a full, formal interview to be conducted two days later at their office.
Advised by her attorney she could face criminal charges if their deception is uncovered, Brontë reluctantly invites Georges to move in with her. They try to learn about each other's past and their quirks and habits but quickly find they can barely tolerate each other. Georges is a fiery-tempered selfish slob and smoker who prefers red meat to vegetarian food, while Brontë is shown as uptight and cold, obsessed with her plants and wrapped up in environmental issues.
Brontë's best friend Lauren Adler's parents plan to leave New York City and may donate their trees and plants to the Green Guerrillas, a group overseeing the development of inner city gardens. Brontë is invited to a dinner party to discuss the issue and discovers Georges is there, having been asked by Lauren. He so impresses the Adlers with an impressionistic piano piece set to a poem about children and trees that they agree to donate their plants to the Green Guerrillas. When Brontë's parents later arrive at the apartment for an unannounced visit, Georges pretends to be the handyman.
When Brontë's boyfriend Phil returns from a trip, Georges reveals he is her husband. Brontë angrily kicks Georges out, but the pair nonetheless appear at the immigration interview the next day. The two are questioned separately, and when Georges is caught out by the interviewer, he confesses the marriage is a sham. He agrees to deportation but insists Brontë not be charged for her role in the charade. He lets Brontë believe the interview was a success and the two go their separate ways.
A few days later, Georges invites Brontë to join him at the cafe where they first met. When she notices one of the immigration agents is seated nearby, she realizes Georges is being deported, and finally aware she loves him, tries to stop him from leaving. Georges promises to write every day asking the same question "When are you coming, Cherie?", a line he had also used when describing their fabricated courtship to the INS. Then, Georges is deported back to France, just as they have admitted their love for each other.Gérard Depardieu as Georges Fauré
Andie MacDowell as Brontë Parrish
Bebe Neuwirth as Lauren Adler
Gregg Edelman as Phil
Robert Prosky as Brontë's Lawyer
Lois Smith as Brontë's Mother
Ann Dowd as Peggy
Larry Wright as Larry Wright the bucket drummer
Peter Weir wrote the script, an original, specifically as a vehicle for Gérard Depardieu to introduce him to a wide English-speaking audience.
Partial funding for the film was provided by the Film Finance Corporation Australia and Union Générale Cinématographique. Although the film was set in America and did not feature Australian actors, the fact it was written, directed, filmed, designed and edited by an Australian enabled it to receive funding from the Australian government. This was $3.8 million from the FFC.
It should also be noted that this film is almost identical in plot (and uncredited) to a Michel Brault film, Les Noces de Papier (The Paper Wedding), released in 1989.
Green Card: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on January 22, 1991 on Varèse Sarabande.
Some of the music like "River", "Watermark", and "Storms in Africa" by Enya, "Holdin' On" by Soul II Soul, "Oyin Momo Ado" by Babatunde Olatunji and "Surfin' Safari" by The Beach Boys are heard in the movie, but not included in the soundtrack.
- "Street Drums" (Larry Wright) (1:29)
- "Instinct" (3:33)
- "Restless Elephant" (2:55)
- "Cafe Afrika" (2:59)
- "Greenhouse" (3:15)
- "Moonlight" (1:24)
- "9AM Central Park" (1:48)
- "Clarinet Concerto In A Major: Adagio" (W.A. Mozart) (8:38)
- "Silence" (4:38)
- "Instinct II" (3:09)
- "Asking You" (1:45)
- "Pour Bronté" (6:19)
- "Eyes On The Prize" (The Emmaus Group Singers) (3:04)
The film earned mixed reviews from critics, as it currently holds a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "as breezily escapist as a film this facile can be" and added, "Ms. MacDowell ... has a lovely, demure ease that makes George's appreciative gaze quite understandable. Mr. Depardieu, in the role that gets him into a New York Yankees cap, proves that he is nothing if not a sport ... He comes to life most fully when he lapses into French or is otherwise momentarily freed from the story's constraints." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed the film "is not blindingly brilliant, and is not an example of the very best work of the director who made The Year of Living Dangerously or the actor who starred in Cyrano de Bergerac. But it is a sound, entertaining work of craftsmanship, a love story between two people whose meet is not as cute as it might have been."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film a "captivating romantic bonbon" and added, "Don't look for the originality and grit that distinguished Weir's Australian films Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli, Green Card has all the heft of a potato chip. But Depardieu's charm recognizes no language barriers, and MacDowell, the revelation of Sex, Lies, and Videotape, proves a fine, sexy foil." Rita Kempley of the Washington Post said, "Like Ghost and Pretty Woman, this romance is blissfully dependent on our staying good and starry-eyed, seduced by the charisma of the leads. And we do, despite its lackadaisical pace and disappointing ending."
Variety said, "Although a thin premise endangers its credibility at times, Green Card is a genial, nicely played romance." Time Out London stated "Weir's first romantic comedy boasts a central relationship which is tentative and hopeful, a mood beautifully realised by Depardieu (venturing into new territory with a major English-speaking role). Complemented by the refined MacDowell, his gracious, generous performance is never dominating, and their exchanges offer unexpected pleasures. In terms of the genre's conventions, Weir likens this film to 'a light meal.' It's one to savour." Channel 4 said, "Weir's film has its fair share of cute moments as the opposites slowly begin to attract, but this is largely over rated stuff, which proved curiously popular with critics on its release. Depardieu does his obnoxious-yet-strangely-lovable act with ease; however, the romantic comedy fixture MacDowell is less convincing."
Green Card grossed $10,585,060 at the box office in Australia, which is equivalent to $16,725,817 in 2009 dollars.
Touchstone released the film on VHS around 1991 and Touchstone Home Entertainment released the film on Region 1 DVD on 4 March 2003. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French.
Green Card was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in February 2004. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the original theatrical trailer, Umbrella Entertainment trailers, and interviews with Peter Weir, Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell.