Yes, I liked Green Book. Come at me, brah
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
RPL Film Theatre,
Somehow, I managed to go six months without having to touch controversial Best Picture winner Green Book, but I guess my number is up. Thanks, RPL!
In case you’ve been living under a rock, these are the basics: Tony Lip, a working class Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen), is hired to drive Don Shirley, an African-American concert pianist (Mahershala Ali), across the Deep South for a tour. Initial misgivings give way to mutual respect. This takes place during the 60s, for extra racism.
The truth is, I don’t hate Green Book and the blowback is a massive overreaction. So instead of a traditional review, here’s why all the haters are wrong.
- THE STORY IS TOO SIMPLE If you can heal the racial divide in America in two hours, more power to you. The reality of it is far too complex to tackle with a single movie, something that more ambitious films like Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting also encountered and failed to resolve. Green Book’s ultimate message — look beyond the color of one’s skin — is unquestionably naïve, but positive nonetheless.
- THE CHARACTERS STRAY TOO FAR FROM THE REAL-LIFE PEOPLE THAT INSPIRED THEM Come on, it’s not like Ray’s filmmakers erased one of Ray Charles’ wives for narrative purposes. Or Bohemian Rhapsody rearranged Queen’s milestones to reinforce the story arc. Oh, wait. They totally did. It’s common practice, whether we like it or not.
- DON SHIRLEY’S FAMILY DOES NOT ENDORSE THE MOVIE Yeah, his estranged brother and nephew. Super-credible sources. It’s like Meghan Markel’s stepsister complaining the Duchess of Sussex is kind of a B. I wish I didn’t know that.
- IT’S ANOTHER ‘WHITE SAVIOUR’ STORY Not really. Don Shirley drives change as much as Tony. One could even make a case Don’s effect on Tony (turning him into a sympathetic ally with better musical taste) is deeper than the bouncer making the pianist less of a snob.
- ONE OF THE SCRIPTWRITERS POSTED AN ANTI-MUSLIM TWEET Nick Vallelonga (grandson of Tony Lip) parroted Trump’s lies about Muslims celebrating 9/11, but his objectionable beliefs didn’t make it into the movie. I mean, Edith Wharton was super racist, but one can still find value in her work. It’s a complex world. Blanket statements don’t cut it.
- IT’S REVERSE DRIVING MISS DAISY This is the kind of low-hanging fruit people try to pass off as witty. There are differences and nuances that are conveniently bypassed by those trying to prove the comparison is just. It’s not.
In short, Green Book deserves to be watched. The film is straightforward, well-executed and often very funny (directed by There Is Something About Mary’s Peter Farrelly). Worst case scenario, you get to form your own opinion, instead of just retweeting the loudest voices on Twitter.