With each picture since his 2000 debut George Washington, David Gordon Green has taken at least a small step backward. That gradual regression becomes a full-fledged precipitous decline with Snow Angels, a film in which the director (working from a novel by Stewart O'Nan) flails about in search of poetry, and comes up with only trivial stylistic flourishes that compound his story's overwrought faux-naturalism. Considering the lyrical grace of his heralded first feature, Green's devolution from one of American cinema's most promising talents to his current status as just another middling indie lightweight is tough to fathom. Yet with his latest, Green misses the mark in so many respects -- from a multi-strand plot devoid of insight, to performances that are generally overcooked, to a mise-en-scène that comes up largely empty in the department of inspired grace and beauty -- that it makes one wonder if his upcoming foray into director-for-hire work (with this summer's raunchy stoner comedy The Pineapple Express) isn't a shrewd attempt to escape his own increasingly faulty auteurist instincts.