Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Green Book (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco

Author

How this thing won Best Picture, I have no idea. It might be the worst Best Picture winner in recent memory.

This is the story of a talented, educated, socially clueless black guy who takes a road trip with a rough, uneducated, racist white guy and become best friends. But let’s take a closer look at things.

We’re supposed to sympathize with Doc for being misunderstood and victimized by society, yet he has no heart, no spirit for adventure, and is uptight and snobby and elitist about everything. And somehow, he has made a career of playing popular music, yet he doesn’t have a clue about any of the prominent black musicians playing on the radio.

Tony is established as bigoted and racist when he looks upon workers in his house with disgust and throws away the glasses they drank from. Given this set-up, Tony’s reaction when he first meets Doc is all wrong. Tony doesn’t seem to have any problem interviewing with or working for a black man. And later on, when Doc’s homosexuality is implied, Tony doesn’t even blink.

I spent two hours with both of these men, and I don’t really understand their backgrounds, follow their behavior, or care about them. Over the course of the story, neither of them grow or change. Is Doc a little looser and socially aware? Hardly. Is Tony more tolerant? Maybe. Have either of them really become better people? Not sure. In the end, if this was intended to be an emotional story about two characters growing and changing and bonding, it’s not.

Emotional music can heighten the emotion that exists in a scene, but when scenes are not dramatically motivated and confused, it doesn’t work. Imagine watching this movie without the sappy music, and it’s a lot easier to see how flat it really is.

Scenes are predictable, with on-the-nose social injustices hitting you on cue in scene after scene. And just so I get this straight… Every time Doc falls asleep in the back and Tony has trouble seeing through the windshield, cops come up behind them and pull them over?

Pacing for the whole movie is a bit off, with no clear build or climax. Even the timing within scenes is a little off. Bad editing, with lots of unnecessary conversational cuts. Just because two people are talking doesn’t mean that you need to rapidly cut between them on every word, especially if the conversation is not an important one.

Viggo was pretty good with the accent and mannerisms and body transformation. Not a great performance by Ali, though some of this may be attributed to the fact that the character was not fully developed. The piano performances were impressive, but it seems Ali had a piano double? I’m wondering if they used CGI for some of those longer shots during performances.

If anything, the film does a pretty good job capturing the time period with costumes, sets, casting, and lighting. Scenes with Tony’s family use real-life family members, which helps to make those moments feel authentic.

So how did it win Best Picture? Unfortunately, it might be because movies featuring racism and social injustice, even if it is not explored with thoughtfulness and originality, get special treatment in this day and age.