While not every movie needs to provide incredibly complex revelations about humanity, films should be judged based on what they set out to achieve. ‘Green Book’ tries desperately to portray a wonderful and heart-warming friendship between a non-conventional black person and his lovably racist friend. Unfortunately, the result can feel shallow and unoriginal, failing to rise up to Maharshala Ali’s profound performance.
This movie follows Tony ‘Lip’, an Italian-American bouncer who starts working for Dr. Shirley, a world-class African-American pianist. Brought to the deep South for his tours, Dr. Shirley relies on Tony not only for driving, but more importantly for protection.
The typical story of a friendship apparently fixing racism is painfully out of touch.
Any creator should be aware of the importance of the topic they’re bringing to the screen, especially if the topic at hand is as relevant and complex as racism. Because of this, when the impact of the systematic oppression of black people in America is portrayed according to the same played out beats constructed for white audiences, the whole movie can come off as insincere, or even worst, superficial. The typical story of a friendship apparently fixing racism is painfully out of touch, especially when compared to other movies that have come out recently. This movie is not empowering, nor heartfelt. It panders to the audience with a predictable story, and stereotypes used in the worst way possible: for cheap laughs. In fact, other than the main protagonists, characters are portrayed as the most offensive versions of either African-Americans, Southerners, or Italian-Americans. This discredits the relationship between the protagonists, while leading one wonder about the creators, and their intention in reporting this real-life story.
Although the accuracy of a movie cannot alone ruin an entire viewing experience, in this case the controversies can help explain why this movie can feel forced. Not only was the remaining family of Dr Shirley not contacted during the making of the film, but they even have complained about enormous inaccuracies of the musician’s relationship with the family. Adding to this, the appalling allegations of sexual harassment and islamophobia pose a definitive answer on why the character of a creator matters when consuming media. Because creating can be truly a personal experience, major faults in one’s perception of the world, such as bigotry, can end up being reflected on the screen, mostly in the form of an outdated message.
That being said, this movie is worth seeing purely based on the strength of the performance of Maharshala Ali. He turns what could have been a mundane performance into a moving portrayal of the serious loneliness due to being forced by society into a role that does not suit us. Tragically, the movie does not explore this conflict as intelligently as it could have in the hands of more capable creators. Instead, Virgo Mortensen is the focal point of the movie, delivering a worthy performance. Although Maharshala Ali’s performance deserved to be the central point of the movie, the movie works best in the interaction between the two main actors, even when the material fails them.
Review: 3/5 stars