The Green Book Movie: Thoughts

I have been wanting to see the movie Green Book for a while and when I realized it had been nominated for 5 Oscars, I definitely wanted to see it before the Oscars aired.

And it was just by sheer coincidence that I did not read the reviews. I usually will skim a few reviews just to get an idea if the movie is good or not, what the critics think but at the same time, I will be on the alert for spoilers.

This time, I just felt like treating myself to a Friday afternoon movie and off I went. I did watch the trailer briefly before I left and have included it below.

I loved the movie. It was funny, it was sad some parts, it was thought provoking. I cried, I laughed. I loved the subtle sarcasm and the intensity of Dr, Shirley played by Mahershala Ali and the crass straightforwardness of Tony Lip played by Viggo Mortensen. On A Friday afternoon, it was a small audience, I may have been the only person of color there. I am not 100% sure though. Sometimes, we laughed together, sometimes, I laughed alone and there were moments, I didn’t think were that funny. I cried at the end. Perhaps others did too.

I did not know Viggo Mortensen’s work but I thought he acted his role as Tony Lip very well. And I was only just a little more familiar with Mahershala Ali’s actual work having watched him in Moonlight, Hidden Figures and season 1 of Luke Cage. I liked him as an actor and always felt that he embodied his characters really well. I thought his role as Dr. Shirley was superb..okay I am a bit biased. I love this man, I like his acting, his persona and he is fine as heck. But I digress, where was I?

Oh yes, I got home and was like well, let me read some reviews, let me learn some more about the movie, about the characters because I had not realized that this was based on real people. And as soon as I started, it was downhill from there.

To sum up the main criticisms of the movie, they are as follows:

  • It suffers from the white savior narrative. This is when a white character rescues people of color from their plight. Ergo, the Help, Blind Side, Radio, Dances with Wolves, etc etc.
  • The family of Dr Shirley disputes that the friendship between these two men was real. They say, that it was a simple employer-employee relationship similar to many others that Dr. Shirley had.
  • The Green Book that gives the movie it’s title is barely referred to in the movie. The Green Book was a travel guide for black travelers to know which places were welcoming, which places would serve you, where to sleep. where to eat. The criticism is that the relevance of The Green Book is barely referenced and when it is, it is done in a nonchalant way that belies its importance and significance during the Jim Crow era.
  • Uhm let’s see what else..Dr. Shirley, the music prodigy and whose story the movie is technically about is sort of a secondary character in this movie. Tony Lip is the real star. It’s a story of Tony’s learning, of his awakening if you will. In fact, Viggo Mortensen is nominated for Best Actor while Mahershala Ali is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I had just found this out before the movie and I agree it did take me by surprise.
  • Tony’s character is fleshed out, he has a family, he has friends and acquaintances. While Dr. Shirley is an enigma, we don’t see his family or his friends, he seems lonely and solitary, he drinks too much. Personally, complex characters intrigue me. I empathized with him and could relate to him as a character, as a person of high intellect, and as a person who enjoyed solitude. I do think that the movie could have revealed more about his life and about him as a person outside of his music genius.

There are other points but going into them would spoil the story for those who have not watched it. Then there have also been other controversies that have come to light after the movie as well.

Knowing all this, would I still recommend the movie? Yes, I would. Perhaps, I am not woke enough. But I just felt that this was a feel-good movie, it was well acted and it was a nice escape from my real life on a Friday afternoon. And that to me, in this time and space, was a good thing. As for the distortion of the friendship between Dr. Shirley and Tony. To me, the movie is a fictional account, not a documentary. Fictional license if you will.

All in all, should it have been nominated for five Oscars? I am not sure about all that. But I’d watch it again and yes, I’d recommend it. And I hope Mahershala Ali does win for Best Supporting Actor.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Chella says:

    Very nice and thought provoking post! Thanks for sharing you comments and thoughts about this movie. I’ll defintiely have to watch it! I have heard other people talk about how good it is, so it will definitely be on my movie watch list now😏
    I’m very glad you enjoyed it and the way you wrote your comments perhaps you should consider writing reviews for movies! You do it very well my friend! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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