Green Book (2018)
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But I couldn't help it ... it really WAS the best film I saw (out of 17), and far and away the most entertaining. I think this is largely because it's based on a real-life story about the beginning of a lifelong friendship - a story that has writing participation by the son of one of the real-life characters. There's definitely an air of authenticity to the events as they unfold that could never occur with a purely contrived plot. Consider: A college-educated concert pianist of Jamaican descent hires a temporarily-unemployed Italian-American nightclub bouncer who's streetwise but academically dim to drive him to venues in the Deep South back in 1962. That's not a setup that a Hollywood script written from scratch would ever have come up with.
The two lead actors really click. Mahershala Ali makes a nice Oscar follow-up playing the aloof pianist passenger to Viggo Mortensen's "b.s. artist" driver. Ali is certain to get another nomination; Mortensen's performance may be a little too broad to garner one, but he delivers exactly what's called for. And he makes a believable Italian-American, which is impressive considering that he's Danish.
I'm allergic to preaching and heavy-handedness in movies no matter what the message, and with the exception of one borderline scene, I'd say that the movie nicely sidesteps these proclivities that surface so often in socially-conscious films.
The music and FX are excellent. When an actor plays a piano player, there's always the challenge of making the playing look believable. It doesn't get any better than it gets here - Ali's piano playing is every bit as convincing as Margot Robbie's ice skating in I, TONYA. You never see a disconnect between hands and body as he's filmed against a variety of backgrounds. And if I could bet on an Oscar win right now, it would be Kris Bowers for Best Original Score. (He also supplies Ali's hands, which should clinch it.)
Top everything off with a Capra-esque Christmas Eve finale and a closing line that sends everyone home smiling, and it all adds up to a monster hit. Its commercial payoff could be huge - the movie practically begs for a TV series spinoff, and the real-life characters remained friends until they both died in 2013.
So congratulations to Peter Farrelly on his graduation from co-directing lowbrow fare to solo-directing middlebrow (i.e. mass-appeal) fare. You can't deny the talent and craftsmanship it takes to make a mainstream movie that works as well as this one does.
Two social issues are concerned here rather than the lack of literacy of the working class protagonist Tony. One is class relationship of the capitalist class and the working class; the other one is that the African origin and the Caucasian.
The family relationship (loneliness caused by Tony's tour assistant job which has an emotional effect between both Tony and his wife) is something additional to this core social issues concerned in this film.
Among all the locations they traveled, I personally familiar with Louisville, KY where the famous Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) lived as a hometown, KFC also headquartered in that town.
When Toni enjoys KFC fried chickens and throws its born and a coke away from the car window during driving on the town road, we can clearly know his disgusting bad behaviour that makes working class look like a bit unenlightened. It also makes us uncomfortable while seeing the film.
However, the fight scene in the bar at that town is a resemblance to what had happened to Muhammad Ali during his earlier age in Louisville that he was refused from entering a restaurant in that way.
Besides this, the abusive Caucasian police officers falsely flag and arrest Don and Tony at sundown town during car driving on the rainy day. This kind of racist tendency is also a typical everyday scene in the American society.
A capitalist/African American pianist Don teaches illiterate Tony during his job on the tour to help him sending far better written letters to his wife as a sign of Tony's personal development and improvement of his disgusting behaves.
The most tensioned moment of this film is when Don refuses to do the final performance after he gets discriminated by the conservative racist restaurant manager from entering the place for a dinner.
His brave decision to break the deal under such awkward business occasion is nether for the business profit nor reputation but it is for protecting his human dignity. Remember making a decision is an essence of plotting and the entire story telling to express something important and identifiable for audiences and society in general.
Of course, the film is not a far left class war stuff, it is ordinarily intended to harmonise both racial difference and class conflict with such happy ending. The entire framework of film construction is a typical capitalist one.
Mostly, I think this is a movie that's desperately afraid of 'offending' anyone. For instance: if there's a scene with racist cops, there will also be a scene with a good cop down the road, just to make clear that the movie is not stating or suggesting that 'all cops are/were racist'. It's also funny that the good-cop scene happens in the snow, to let us know the characters are back in a blue state, where supposedly life wasn't so bad for a black man after all! This is one of the many simplistic moves that indicate to me that the filmmakers were willing to sacrifice the complexities of their themes for a feel-good entertainment.
The script wants both characters to 'learn' from each other and eventually change and grow, but to make this happen, it turns them into unrealistic caricatures. It's a bit frightening how Shirley is portrayed as a complete ignorant of black culture, but it had to be this way so Tony can be the one to 'introduce' him to it. Tony's transformation comes simply from witnessing racism first hand, as if he never experienced such a thing in his life before - maybe another consequence of this being a blue state-red state movie??
So besides the performances, that speak for themselves, I think it's a very uninspired effort. At one point the characters leave the car for no reason other than to have a dramatic confrontation in the rain, as if rainy night equals 'dramatic weight'. I saw it in a packed movie theater and people seemed to enjoy it. You can't blame them. The movie has a 'now everything's fine' conclusion that can leave audiences in a good state of mind - but it also shows how simplistic it really is.
Great performances from the entire cast, especially Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali who were perfectly cast and convincing in their roles. It was also great to see comedian Sebastian Maniscalco in this film as well.
Writer, director and producer Peter Farrelly nailed every aspect of this biography.
The score, cinematography, sets and visuals were all on point.
I'm not a fan of slow paced long films, but this was was close to an exception. I feel if the pace was picked up a bit and/or the 130 min run-time edited down to around 110 mins, this would have been a perfect 10 from me.
Excellent drama and comedy perfectly positioned throughout the film.
A well deserved 8/10 from me.
The story of a black man who struggles to gain the respect of his fellow african-americans, while simultaneously resisting and pulling at the roots of the racism and oppression which keeps him from being as successful as the americans and europeans who should be his equals by all measures musical and educational.
While the story and plot left little to be desired. I felt one or two jokes were shoe-horned in and would have been better discarded. The visual tone was fitting to the film, but the camerawork was nothing out of the ordinary. Not all films call for out-of-this-world originality in all marks however. And this film allows the audience to focus on what is really important.
There are thousands - if not millions - of films about racism towards black people and their culture, and Green Book had a different perspective than the rest of them - by not focusing on the racism but on how the racism changed a man who wasn't a target of it. But that's obviously a big no-no according to these critics.
To me Green Book is about a white man thoroughly changing his whole mindset about something that he'd been condition to abide to his whole life.
I've seen Mortensen in films before and thought he was an okay film actor. His embodiment of Tony Lip is totally immersive. I not only believe his Bronx character, but depiction of Tony's growth as a human being is remarkable to watch. I can't say enough about Ali's performance as Don Shirley. It is nuanced and impressive.
Watching these two characters interact and change each other is fascinating. This isn't just another road-trip buddy movie. It is funny, it is poignant and it is a brilliantly written and crafted film.
The only drawback is, you will have to wait until US Thanksgiving to see it.
That said, in my mind the movie was nothing special. It was all very predictable and had a very similar feel to many other civil rights movies in which a black man and a white man start off the movie with a reluctant relationship and slowly warm up to each other as they begin to appreciate their similarities and eachothers troubles and eventually defy all social norms and become good friends. I'm not saying that they shouldn't have become friends because you can't rewrite history and this movie was based on a true story. I just wish that story telling was a bit more ambitious and delved into some of the ideas deeper rather thank making a well made but otherwise mediocre civil rights movie.
The plot tells of a journey through the southern states of a talented black pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his bouncer driver, hired solely for this tour (Viggo Mortenessen). Minor at first sight and a little bydlovaty hero Mortensen during this uncomplicated journey becomes for an esthete pianist a true friend, support and even a treasure of useful knowledge about life and society, and he draws from the boss useful skills in aesthetics, love of art and good parenting.
The plot is very simple, the film looks incredibly easy. Dialogues are written ironically, absolutely not boring, but at the same time they remain filled with meaning for the viewer. The relationship between the characters is the main motive of the film. And how could so different people in all respects be able to become each other friends for life in a few weeks?
It should be noted that the leitmotif of 'racism', which at that time was still extremely common in America, especially in the south, was incredibly subtly written. All these hotels are for 'colored', individual cafes, pools and even latrines .. the nuances of that time in the film are shown perfectly, and so that you yourself feel ashamed that this existed. I literally wanted to stand up and give the characters in the face in several scenes.
Surprisingly, the director Peter Farinelli had previously shot mostly comedies (and mostly with his brother), and this is his first film in the comedy drama genre. From my point of view, he handled it perfectly and I would love to see what else he would film later, although I can't say before that I set him apart as an interesting director. Perhaps it was the fact that the film was made only by Peter Farenelli very strongly contributed to the 'nobility' of the picture in terms of humor.
The funny fact is that one of the screenwriters of the film is Nick Vallelonga, his father was the prototype of the main character Frank (Tony Chatterun) Vallelonga. The script was written on the basis of dictation records made by Nick Vallelonga. Later on these records, Viggo Mortensen learns to speak Italian, because his hero is Italian.
The film was shot in the spirit of the 60s, beautiful cars of that time are very well shown, the art of the costume, the receptions in the large houses of the rich public (some 'Gone with the Wind' is immediately remembered)
This film is simple, kind, sincere. Without any strain, without life horrors, you know, where someone dies, someone is killed or someone is in prison. The atmosphere of the film is "soft" and light. You literally find yourself in this time, with terrific cars of all colors of the rainbow, men in flawless day costumes of all colors, gentlemen with whiskey at the bar in hotels listening to the brilliant pianist.
The Green Book is not a picture of slavery, racism and humiliation, although it touches on these topics. The Green Book is a film about honesty, human dignity, true friendship and mutual support between people. The film is about the fact that it is very difficult to change the ingrained thinking of society alone, even if you are brilliant and famous.
By viewing required.
To story, writing, directing -- This movie avoided the traps that road-trip buddy movies faceplant into. Scenes that easily could have been trite and corny were fresh and sharp. No punches pulled, people ground into the dirt and resurrected by sheer strength of will. Some of the events were so painful and unsparing that I had no idea how the movie would end.
Another big thing, the movie wasn't cynical despite some of the ugliness it reveals. Faith, family, honor, are all part of the movie without being in your face. You'll fall in love with the characters.
It's a movie about how two mismatched people, (a chain-smoking, rough speaking Italian-American and an African-American you might even call 'uppity'), who, on a long road trip in the Deep South in the early sixties, bestow on each other the gifts of friendship and humanity. Even if you knew nothing of the 'true' story of the musician Don Shirley and his driver you can predict the outcome from the get-go. Of course, it also helps that it's also very funny despite the seriousness of the material and that leads Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are so damn good, (Ali's second Oscar in three years looks like it's already in the bag). It is, then, something of a treat and might even convince you to seek out the music of Don Shirley.