Green Book: why?

9 Jan

Ever since I saw the first advertisements for Green Book, I was turned off. My reaction was visceral. In the year 2018, a movie where a white man learns that African-Americans are a-okay, who stops being racist because of his friendship with a black man, feels very outdated. And yet rave reviews poured in for this movie.

I was puzzled. Was I not giving it a fair shot? Green Book stars two talented actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. But it was directed by Peter Farrelly, of Dumb and Dumber fame. The movie was written by the son of the real-life white protagonist. When I learned this, it confirmed my suspicions that Green Book is more about a white man’s transformation than a gifted black musician, who mostly serves, it seems, as a vehicle for his chauffeur’s redemption. Black characters at the service of a white story.

And then I watched the Golden Globes, where Green Book won for Best Screenplay and Best Comedy. I was bewildered. Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post helped to articulate what feels so wrong about this throwback tale receiving so much praise: because it is happening in a year when Black Kkklansman by Spike Lee, Blindspotting by Daveed Diggs, Sorry to Bother You by Boots Riley, If Beale Street Could Talk by Barry Jenkins and Black Panther by Ryan Coogler were all released. So many films were made by black filmmakers with black people at the heart of the story, with fresh, original takes on race and racism. And yet Green Book gets all the praise? It feels strange, and unfair.

Needless to say, I will not be seeing Green Book. But I look forward to seeing If Beale Street Could Talk this weekend.

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