Review: Green Book (Peter Farrelly)


Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Art that's rotten to the core, smothered with a veneer of gentility to craft the perfect vehicle for delivering a rotten product to an audience that can't admit that it's rotten too. I like my depravity to announce itself as such, for it's then easier to denounce as such. Green Book saunters onto the screen with a defiant air of unearnt respectability - respectability that it has self-anointed, and that it declares with the requisite force to convince that rotten audience of this very attribute. Every time this movie made me wonder, or made me laugh, or engaged me just a little in spite of my better instincts (these occurrences were pretty sparse, mind), I was not more inclined to forgive it its flaws, but less inclined, since I saw this for what it was: me responding to Green Book's assertions of respectability and of high quality, utterly in spite of my better instincts.


Those better instincts won out, however, since the momentary pleasures offered by this rancid movie have worn off entirely, and should never recur during any unplanned, unwanted repeat viewings. I have paid attention to the rebukes made toward Green Book's bastardization of fact and reality in the media, and have concluded that the movie is an even greater piece of trash for the veracity of these rebukes, though its shamelessness is apparent even without this crucial context. The movie is artistically insipid, conceptually banal, and blatantly racist. Its mollification of the nature of racism in 1960s America is not merely retrograde today but even when compared with contemporaneous cinematic depictions, whose nuance and psychological inquiries were markedly more robust. Whether or not this material is suitable for a Hollywood comedy (I'm of the opinion that almost all material is), it's definitively unsuitable for this comedy, so incompetent are the screenwriters at either mining it for its own comedic value or sourcing humour elsewhere.


Steadfast through this onslaught of ugliness stands Mahershala Ali, who matches the dignity of his character with the sincerity of his performance. As the real-life pianist whose history this picture rudely betrays, Don Shirley, Ali must operate with grace and humility through scene upon scene that seeks to mock, belittle, or heinously misrepresent his character and his experiences, relegated here to a supporting player, an accent in the tale of his own life. Ali's greatest task as an actor may not amount to his greatest work, alas, simply due to it existing within arguably his poorest project to date. He remains untainted by the rot that consumes Green Book, that indeed even begat it, and that seems to have informed its every interpretation of a reality it twists into a statement of crudely, ineffectively disguised bigotry.


Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

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