Green Book (2018)
Director: Peter Farrelly
Writers: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie
Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
I hate many aspects of modern Hollywood films. The list goes on and on. But if there is one thing I absolutely despise, its a forced message. When I say forced message I don’t mean something that’s easy to figure out. I mean like someone shoving their ideas into my throat every chance they get. That is what this film felt like. When I heard this film had some Oscar buzz surrounding it, I was intrigued. Didn’t read up on the summary or watch the trailer, just went into it blindly. Well now I know why this is getting that buzz. It’s the type of film I would expect people who work at Hollywood enjoy. Let’s just say it appeals strongly to one side of the political spectrum. I don’t really like to bring up politics when I am writing up my review. But since I had to sit through two hours of “racism is bad” being shoved down my throat, I think it’s justified that I can express myself freely.
First and foremost, I want to be very clear. I am not in any way saying that the message of the film is a bad one. Obviously racism is awful and not something that is welcome in modern society. What I am going to criticize is “how” that message was given. Because there is a good way to give across an idea, and there is a bad way. This film did it in a completely bad way. The problem is that it makes it so blatantly obvious that the message just loses all potency. The film begins with Tony waking up to see two African American plumbers working on his sink. From the way he looks at them we obviously know he doesn’t like that. His wife offers them a drink and they leave. Tony then goes and throws the cups in the trash. As soon as I saw that scene, I knew how the whole film was going to play out. He is going to go on this journey and he will change his ways because he is going to see past skin color and realize that we are all humans. Nothing wrong with that message. The problem as I keep repeating is the way they do it. My god is it obnoxious. The incredibly sad and dramatic music every time Don explains the situation of Black people was just too silly to make me care about what was happening. The biggest problem is that the film is so cheesy that nothing lands. Everyone in the film is just an exaggerated stereotype of their ethnicity by an extreme way. The characters seem more like how low end comedians would imitate these ethnicities. It all feels cheap, and not the right way of putting across the message of racism and harmony. If you want to see a film that pushes this point across beautifully while still having a lighthearted tone, look to a film like Do The Right Thing, that did what Green Book wanted to do so effectively.
Although I absolutely hated the way this film pushed their message across, I don’t hate everything about it. I actually enjoyed the performances by Mortensen and Ali. Their chemistry as Tony and Don was great, and maybe the only thing worthwhile about the film. Although I found a lot of the film cheesy, there were some genuinely charming and funny moments that really warmed up the theater. It’s these subtle moments that made the film enjoyable. I couldn’t care less about the forced message, I just wanted to see Tony and Don get into another one of their arguments. That’s the disconnect I guess with this film. It tries to be this sweet and charming true story about an unlikely friendship, but gets muddied by this overarching theme that feels like an itch you can’t get rid of no matter how much you scratch it. It is sad because the film has potential. But it was squandered by a blatant attempt to garner attention and possibly to get the academy interested.
I don’t really have much more to say about this film. Because anyone who saw the film was able to predict the major plot points within the first 20 minutes. Even if you did not watch the film, if I said “a racist stereotypical Italian American is tasked with driving a highly sophisticated black musician into the deep south during the 1960s”, you can immediately guess what will happen. The differences will show in the beginning, but slowly the racist will change his ways and learn to appreciate others for who they are and they will be friends forever. Nothing much to it. Watch it if you want a couple of good laughs I guess. But be prepared for some clear exploitation by a certain political ideology.