This year’s Oscar for best film went to Green Book. There was a backlash, led in part by Spike Lee. Having now watched the movie, I can see his gripe. Where Green Book starts out edgy, with some pointed role reversal… it then descends into homilies, cliched scenes, white-splaining (so much white-splaining), white saviour tropes, white police showing that they’re not so bad after all (no BlackLivesMatter issues here!) and then a flipping family xmas Love Thy Neighbour whitewash. Yikes.
Where did it all go wrong? Well, it really started coming off the rails when white corporate America decided to get in on the movie. I kid you not: Viggo Mortensen pulls the car over at the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in America and then all but force-shames Mahershala into eating fried chicken. Mahershala, gagging, is forced to concede that it is indeed fried chicken and he has some sort of racial affinity with fried chicken. WTF? How on earth did the makers think this was an okay scene? It is quickly followed by Viggo railing at Mahershala that ‘I’m more black than you, cos you don’t know what it is to struggle to feed a family’. Ultimately, Viggo liberates Mahershala, helps him connect with his true self, saves him from bad types and makes sure everyone lives happily ever after.
Such a shame. There are superb, moving and insightful scenes early on. The acting is suitably brilliant. The relationship between the male leads develops interestingly (although a lot of Mahershala’s subplot points are never resolved, meaning he’s half the character Viggo is). And, cinematically, the Pan-American road-trip is a true Odyssey. But the money men behind the film hijack the narrative completely.
It’s far from being a progressive film. It scores 7.5 out of 10 from me.