Wednesday 13 February 2019

Film: 'Green Book'

Following the recent 'The Upside' here's another 'odd-couple' feature. 

Mahershala Ali, principal actor in the truly marvellous 'Moonlight' of a couple of years ago, in this is the renowned, sophisticated, poised, unflappable (usually), classically-trained pianist performing as part of a trio (with violin and cello) whose music I find difficult to categorise - jazz with little improvisation and with classical slant?  Nevertheless, he is nationally celebrated. 
Viggo Mortensen (with paunch) is employed as his heavy-smoking driver to take Ali on a tour of southern states. It's 1962 so racial prejudice and, indeed, discriminatory and demeaning laws are rife. The film is (this time) 'inspired' by a true story, the two main characters being real and friends until they both died just a few years ago.

Starting in New York, Mortensen is a plain-speaking, down-to-earth, family man of Italian origin with an insatiable appetite for junk food and with some racial hang-ups himself - also possibly with dubious contacts. Ali lives in a luxurious flat actually located above Carnegie Hall!  
As in 'The Upside', the rougher-mannered character is offered the post but starts by refusing it. But here again his prospective employer takes a shine to him and convinces him to take the post. Incidentally, despite in an early scene Mortensen having displayed a crude prejudice against two non-white policemen who came to his home for a drink of water, when meeting the black Ali for the first time he shows no sign of discomfort in his presence or the prospect of being alone in his company for twelve weeks. (It's almost as though a key scene had been cut!) 
The events depicted are pretty predictable and formulaic. (I was mentally ticking them off) - arguments between the two of them, Mortensen rescuing Ali more than once when the latter gets into trouble and defending him against discrimination (even from the hosts of venues where he's booked to perform, as well as the police), a 'thaw' between the two men with Ali being persuaded to try Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time and, to cap it all, a finale of an Xmas dinner with the driver's family meeting Ali for the first time and welcoming him in to join them! All smiles, then, guaranteed to have you leaving with that 'feelgood' factor.  

Mahershala Ali took away the 'Best Supporting Actor' BAFTA award for this film only last Sunday. Although not begrudging him it I do wonder if it was fully deserved considering that the emotional range he was required to display was quite circumscribed, breaking away less than a handful of times - though that was the character's personality, certainly not the actor. 
Viggo Mortensen was nominated for BAFTA Best Actor for this same film, though didn't win, of course. His was a more varied role - brusque certainly, though also with an underlying subtlety. 

Director Peter Farrelly ('There's Something About Mary', 'Dumb and Dumber', 'The Three Stooges') handles the often unusual material satisfactorily without setting anything alight. 

I've no complaints of substance. It just didn't grab me to the extent that it has a lot of others. In this case it was clear that the audience I saw it with were enjoying the film more than I was..........5.

(IMDb.............8.3 / Rott. Toms.............7.3 )


  1. Blimey Ray! Are you going for some sort of record here. A film a day. I am reading all your reviews with interest and filing them away in my head for future reference.

    1. The last few days have been exceptional, Carol, even at my cinema-going rate. But now comes a hiatus, occasioned by school mid-term hols when a lot of screens are catering for kiddie/youthful tastes.
      However, there is one further film playing for a short period just started, which I really want to see but it's only screening at infuriatingly inconvenient late-evening times when I simply never go out, so I don't know what to do. Waiting to see if it turns up for a one-off convenient hour, which does sometime happen, when I can catch it. The film? Ah, well!

    2. Films are like buses Carol. You wait and then they all come at once. Some weeks I will go 4 times and then there is a gap may be.

  2. These films are worthy and a waste of time

    1. My distinctly average rating for this is not shared by the majority, JayGee - witness those of the other film sites. Rachel, for one, DID enjoy it, and who's to say that your opinion may not turn out to be closer to hers? In fact I hope it would be so.