Green Book ★★

Eh. I'm sure Green Book works fine with audiences looking for a hokey, feel-good depiction of friendship overcoming racism in the deep south in 1962. There's no disputing that it's an important subject and the story of Tony Lip and Don Shirley is an interesting enough one. But the movie was just too shmaltsy and disjointed for me to get anything out of it.

I took issue with the fact that Tony Lip was the lead character and that the movie presents itself as a redemptive journey for him. It's a fine goal, but the depiction of Tony's intolerance feels like it's handled with kid gloves (no surprise, his son is a co-writer). Tony is a racist who quickly learns the error of his ignorance. The rest of the movie is spent going from example to example of racism against Don with Tony either being surprised or coming to the rescue.

Though, I will admit, Don doesn't depend on Tony every step of the way, and the movie does touch on how he internalizes the hate he experiences on a daily basis. It just wasn't enough for me to inform the story being told. It just seems like such a waste of an interesting subject. Mahershala Ali does a great job as Don, but I just wish it was more focused on his journey specifically instead of Tony's.

Viggo Mortensen does a fine job too. But Green Book suffers from making Tony and most of the supporting characters stereotypes that undercut the seriousness of the subject matter. There's a scene where Don is assaulted by some racists in a bar and it would have been a compelling scene except the racists were more caricatures than anything menacing. This could be completely off-base, but it really felt like the movie was trying to depict racism without offending white audiences. Speaking as a white man in the US in the latter days of 2018, I think if you're offended by depictions of historically accurate racism you may want to re-evaluate some things. As such, populating Green Book with caricatures of racism felt a little disingenuous and maybe a bit reckless.

When it comes down to it, I think my feelings toward Green Book are an extension of a mild annoyance I have for the watered-down, PG-13 depiction of the civil rights era in film in general. This country's history with racism and segregation is such a deplorable and horrific thing that anytime I see a PG-13, "racism is bad" shmaltsy and cliche depiction of the era, I feel like it's a little careless.

And it doesn't help matters that the movie's credited writers are all white men and its director is a white comedy director. I feel like easy and safe feel-good movies like Green Book are exactly why movies like Get Out, BlacKkKlansman, Blindspotting, and Sorry to Bother You need to exist. Because they're speaking in a much bigger way to the affects of racism and the institutions in our society that facilitate it still today. What movies like Green Book accomplishes is giving audiences a chance to say, "Wow, times were really different back then" and then pat themselves on the back for being so progressive.

Anyway, this review got away from me. I didn't like Green Book. Thanks for reading.

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