This is a quick and dirty, as Green Bookhas been out so long, everyone has seen it and, of course, it won Best Movie, Best Original Screenplay and Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor in the 2019 Oscars.
So I’ll put my cards on the table. This film is all about the worst things in Hollywood.
First, the ‘based-on-a-true-story’ moniker. Don Shirley’s family claim they were not consulted properly – and even that the relationship between Shirley and his driver Tony Lip was nothing like as portrayed. Whatever the truth of that disputed relationship, what is true is that Shirley’s Jamaican roots are not even discussed. Here he is a Black American, something the Jamaicans are pretty miffed about. This article in shadow and act, a Balck Hollywood newsfeed has the full story.
Second, the glamorization of racism, especially in today’s America. It all felt a little too pat for me, not ugly enough, and it was ‘alright on the night’ i.e. there were happy endings. The one really good line in the film was Shirley’s desperate plea ‘So if I’m not *black* enough and if I’m not *white* enough, then tell me, Tony, what am I?’ What is undoubtedly true, and highlighted in the film, is that Shirley was a virtuous piano player – he trained at the Rimsky Korsakov Conservatory in St Petersburg from the age of nine – whose love of classical musical was subjugated by the necessity of playing pop to make money to a whole lot of pig-ignorant racists.
Third, and related. This is a serious subject matter, but I felt that Farrelly trivialised it with a Hollywood magic wand. He is a comedy director (Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene…I could go on). The argument could be that the light touch is the only way to get the US to sit up and smell the coffee but dumbing down is not the answer. According to one article in the Hollywood Reporter, it is ‘about getting to a greater truth than whatever the mundane facts are’. Which is why it won all the Oscars… and brings me to…
Fourth. This was not a worthy Best Picture. Hollywood political correctness and a nod to #blacklivesmatter by a whole load of whiteys robbed a much worthier set of films. Roma should have won Best Film, and Capernaum should have then got the Best Foreign Film slot. Ditto Mahershala Ali. Great actor, don’t get me wrong, but Richard E Grant in Can you Ever Forgive Me?stole all the shows in 2018. Having got all that off my chest, I did enjoy the film – but in a very much three-star way.