Green Book

greenbook1I’m certainly beginning to think I might be getting soft in my middle-age. I’m not sophisticated enough to suggest that this film is a deplorable calculated artifice that plays fast and loose in over-simplifying events and social history, nor am I gullible enough to believe that this film is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This film has ‘Artistic License’ stamped all over it. But I don’t really mind. In just the same way as I felt about Stan & Ollie, I just think this is a great, life-affirming and warm movie that I really enjoyed. Its a movie, not a documentary, and it’s obviously entertainment first and foremost. Yeah, I’m turning into a softie.

But maybe we need stories, and films, like this now. God knows the news is depressing, politics feels broken, and ‘truth’ seems to be a matter of interpretation rather than cold hard facts. Maybe we need movies as an avenue of escape more now than ever, and it’s refreshing to think that that escape might not always involve people in capes with superpowers righting over-simplified wrongs or saving the world from nasty bad-guys who are clearly mad. I think a film like Green Book serves the same function as earlier films like, say, Field of Dreams or Glory, or possibly even Its A Wonderful Life, a film that I was, funnily enough, thinking about as the end credits of Green Book crawled up my screen (I’m always a sucker for nice Christmas moments in film). Maybe we just need ‘nice’ movies about good people doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing or people learning they are wrong and changing their ways. Maybe we need to believe people can be decent.

Yeah, maybe I’m turning into a softie and need to watch Taxi Driver, pronto.

But I did rather enjoy this film.

The basic premise of this film explains all- in 1962, a streetwise, working-class Italian-American bouncer looking for work is hired as the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South, during which he witnesses the racial prejudices which blighted America’s Deep South and re-evaluates his own prejudices, becoming a better person for it. It leads with the text  ‘based on a true story’ as if that lends weight to its message, or excuses some of its ‘so strange it has to be true?’ moments. I’m caught in that ‘don’t even care’ position, to be honest- all film is make believe, no matter how intent on portraying a true story, and all that really matters here to me is that it’s a great story and well told. The period detail is really nice, the art design convincing without drawing too much attention to itself, the cinematography likewise isn’t too stylish, and the casting and performances really endearing and impressive. Its weird to think that Viggo Mortensen is actually Danish, as he does such a great turn as Tony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali deceptively underplays the pianist Don Shirley – I struggled to recognise him from his brooding, haunted and mumbling character in season three of True Detective that I watched about a week ago. He’s clearly an actor I need to look out for in future.

5 thoughts on “Green Book

  1. I fully agree with all you’ve said here and had a fine time with this movie when I saw it in the cinema. Actually, I’d say it’s the most enjoyable film and rewarding movie I’ve seen in the cinema in the last twelve months, and by some distance too.

    Sure I read all the criticisms that were leveled at the film but I’m of the opinion that those complaints were directed at areas that were of only peripheral concern at best to the filmmakers – when you get right down to it this is a simple, human story about two very different men and how they came to an understanding, formed a common bond, learning something important about themselves as they also learned about each other. And it’s all achieved with a seemingly easy mix of heart and humor.

  2. Pingback: The 2019 List: September – the ghost of 82

  3. Tom

    Mahershala Ali is great. I first discovered him in an early(ish) season of House of Cards (may that show rest in peace — damn you Kevin Spacey, ya turd). I’m always keeping an eye on that guy, which doesn’t at all explain why I haven’t gotten into True Detective yet (maybe the knowledge of having to wade through an apparently panned Second Season is what’s holding me back).

    1. I’ve never seen House of Cards, and its something I’ve really wanted to, but the way things are with regards revelations about Spacey… I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it now.

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