by Zach Smith-Michaels
I love music! As a teenager, I spent many Friday nights playing bass with some punk band in a basement. Music is just a part of my DNA. When I ride the train to work, or drive to the movie theater, or write, I need my tunes. What I do not love, however, happens to be feel good films. I don’t like my movies to be overly fluffy or emotionally manipulative. So why did I go see Green Book? Music. I love the piano and wish that I could play, so this film seemed like it may work for me…and let me tell you, it did.
This film isn’t anything new. You’ve seen movies like this before, but Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali make this movie soar! These men are obviously stellar actors, but they have magic chemistry. Fortunately, the movie knows that Mortensen and Ali are this films greatest strength, and the focus is kept on them. I understand that this film has received some criticism for being a “White Savior Film” and I don’t know if I see it that way. I think the movie focuses on two men who both need a little bit of a change of pace. This movie is also being criticized by Don Shirley’s (Ali’s character in the film) claiming that these two men weren’t friends in real life. That it was simply an employer and employee relationship. In this review, I’m simply talking about the film. I thought that the dynamic performances were easily the best part of this movie.
Prior to the arrival of Don Shirley in the film, Green Book is a little clunky with its story telling. The film had a hard time finding its light, which had me feeling a little nervous that I was going to watch a bad movie. Once the movie’s second act kicked, I started to enjoy the ride, but it did take a while to get there.
This movie also didn’t focus on music as much as I would have liked. It felt like the film makers aren’t lovers of music, and so as a result…this does feel like a message movie, but the movie doesn’t really know what it’s message is. The message would seem to be “Racism is bad” but this movie didn’t say that in a fresh new way, which is unfortunate. It almost feels like a waste of these great performances at times.
Aside from Ali and Mortensen, Green Book doesn’t have much else going for it. The film has humor, and some emotional moments, but it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before. I think that this will be a movie that families will go see on Christmas day when they see that Mary Poppins Returns, is sold out. If this sounds like your cup of coffee, I’d say that you should give this movie a shot. Green Book has two phenomenal performances trapped in an aggressively mediocre film.
If you like jazz, here’s a Spotify playlist: