Sick of the fighting? See "Green Book"

Sick of the fighting that is tearing America apart? Then get thee to a theater now  to watch the captivating and calming "Green Book."

Rotten Tomatoes describes it this way:

When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger-as well as unexpected humanity and humor-they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

It's based on a true story that happened in 1962, when racial hatred was aflame in the Deep South. My wife and I thought it was one of the best movies we've seen.

Not so the New York Times critic who was dismissive. He called it predictable and loaded down with racial cliches to virtually the point of embarrassment. 

NPR followed suit:

Green Book would be easier to like if its recreation of 1962 didn't involve conjuring racial inequities that still linger, and then offering such banal reassurances about them.

Neither reviewer got the striking irony of their hoity-toity criticism: they were as predictable as the movie. But predictability isn't a problem for the movie; anyone who lived through that era or studied it could anticipate the movie's direction. And only the most fragile snowflake will be upset by a depiction of the painful past. The Holocaust-inspired "Sophie's Choice" was a most painful and predictable movie to watch, but that did not diminish its artistry.

Here's the shocker of the criticism: To call efforts to move beyond apartheid as "banal" reveals a troubling degree of  ignorance and callousness. It diminishes the movie's insight that the solution to our diivisiveness is found at a very human level.

"The Green Book" will be, if it is not already, a hit, Despite the predictable negative reviews by the elite media, it has won accolades from many other reviewers and has garnered a full slate of awards. A most positive review was run in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"...there's something so deeply right about this movie, so true to the time depicted and so welcome in this moment; so light in its touch, so properly respectful of its characters, and so big in its spirit, that the movie acquires a glow. It achieves that glow slowly, but by the middle and certainly by the end, it's there, the sense of something magical happening, on screen and within the audience.

Opening only in 40 cities, its popularity has spread by word of mouth, which is how I heard about it. In my neighborhood, it was playing to full houses.

The movie arrives in the full blush of the good will that has been generated by the homages of George H.W. Bush The movie is hopeful, caring and soothing. For once we could go to a movie with a beginning, middle and end that is satisfying and good. One that instructs us how, when America was more deeply and fatally divided than now, we could find an exit door from the chamber of horrors that's now our residence.

dennis@dennisbyrne.net

www.dennisbyrne.net 

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  • I either like a movie or I don't whatever the New York Times says. Thanks for the recommendation. I hope to see it soon.

    BTW, "It's a Wonderful Life" wasn't appreciated by the critics until many years later. Now it's an enduring classic.

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