I’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.