Blog

Green_Book

Green Book – 3 out of 5 (Film 7 of 2019)

The problem with Green Book is it tells the story from the wrong point-of-view. Well, that and it feels like a big-budget, well-acted Hallmark movie. Everything is obvious. This is  storytelling for people who can’t really pay attention or maintain interest if anything gets a bit complex or challenging (Edit: which is meant as a criticism of the filmmakers not those who enjoyed the film). It was fine but could have been so so so much more.

Let me get back to my first point.

I had never heard of Dr Don Shirley and that is a damn shame. What we do learn of his life in this film is fascinating but his is the supporting role to the story of a life less fascinating. We learn that Don Shirley was a piano prodigy. That he was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in music but that he’d had to travel to a conservatorium in the Soviet Union to do so. We learned that he was a masterful classical pianist who had to re-invent himself because he was told no one would buy his classical records or attend his concerts because of racism. We learn he lived in a sort of grandiose apartment above Carnegie Hall and spoke at least three language. And yet the story is centred on the racist driver he hires – who is, himself, portrayed as hailing from an almost comically stereotypical Italian family living in the Bronx.

Ever since I learned of Green Books I’ve found them fascinating. These were travel guides written by and for African-Americans beginning in the 1930s. These guides helped their users navigate the segregated and racist towns they would encounter – finding places to stay, to eat, being warned of towns with especially bad reputations, etc. Fascinating, no? It’s a pity the title has now been wasted on a film about a white man befriending a black man and overcoming his prejudice along the way.

So, yeah – look, it was fine. The acting was solid. It looked good. But it wasn’t the film it could have been and should have been.

 

Synopsis from Dendy Cinemas

Inspired by a true friendship

Award winning actors Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in Green Book, a film inspired by a true friendship. In need of a driver for his 1962 concert tour, world-class black pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) recruits Tony Lip (Mortensen), a tough-talking Italian-American from the Bronx.

As this mismatched pair set out on their journey, they must rely on the “Green Book” to guide them to safe establishments in America’s segregated south – but they’ll need more than a book to understand each other.

Winner of the Audience Award at Toronto International Film Festival, Mortenson and Ali make a winning double act in this humorous and heartwarming film.

Seen at Dendy Newtown on Tuesday 29 January

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email