Movie Review: Green Book (2018)

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Summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
This will be a short review.
I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding this film and I’m not going to speak to that, other than things I noticed about the film in general, but I will also not talk about historical inaccuracies because I don’t know other than what I have read due to the drama surrounding this.
Pros:
Two Leads. There are characters we meet throughout the movie, including Linda Cardelini who plays Tony’s wife but they’re minor characters, so I thought it was best to just focus on the two leads. I don’t agree with Mahershala Ali being nominated for the Supporting Role because his role was just as large, is it because Tony’s son helped write the script?? lol I’m just saying.
  • Viggo Mortensen as Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga. Tony is a bouncer at the Copacabana nightclub, it gets closed for renovations, so he gets invited to interview for a driver position for an eight-week concert tour. He’s against it at first because when he hears all that Don needs from him, he’s like nah. But eventually, he ends up doing it. Tony is unpolished and a little rough around the edges, which is the exact opposite of Don. So, they do clash at times because of that. Tony is a pleasant guy and he often means well. Throughout the movie, we have moments where Tony and Don must lean on each other for various reasons, such as the letters and then the times where Tony must go off and save Don… and those moments are coupled with great acting from Viggo Mortensen. The man is a chameleon and he portray the New Jersey Italian great lol at least from my limited knowledge from media lol.
  • Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. He is an eccentric pianist who is looking for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South. He hires Tony because of his references and after speaking with his wife. Don is very straight laced and very particular. When he first gets into the car, his butler puts a blanket over his legs lol, he doesn’t like littering, he’s very commanding which Ali acts all of Don’s quirks wonderfully. I’ve seen him play many roles and this is the first time I’ve see him really play a straight-laced person and boy he gets me every time. He’s so charismatic with such a commanding presence that any time he speaks, you listen to him. Don obviously must go through a lot in this movie being that it’s set in the 60’s, which is to be expected. Sometimes he handles it well and sometimes he doesn’t. Mahershala Ali is great!
The Beautiful Music! I love classical music and I do enjoy Jazz and Don gets to perform both of those in different parts of the movie and it’s amazing and beautiful. It takes a back seat sometimes compared to the racism stuff and the other dramatic moments, but this movie does have those moments where it’s like “Dang, is Mahershala really playing?” lol. But I have to say the choices of background music, whether the characters are listening to it in the car, or it’s musical score, or whatever Don is playing, it really sets a nice atmosphere.
The Friendship Between Don and Tony. As I said in the character section both actors are SO GOOD. If you don’t want to see this movie for anything else, the chemistry and friendship between these two is so good. There are some weird moments, like when Tony is basically telling Don “how to be black” and it can get a little weird and awkward, but a lot of their other interactions are charming and emotional. Whenever Don is helping Tony write letters to his wife, those are gold. They have a great scene outside, I think it’s snowing, great moment. I don’t particularly care for the dialogue, but the moment is well acted.
Cons:
The Green Book. This is a minor thing, but the movie is called “Green Book” but it’s such a non-thing. We see the Green Book maybe two or three times. We see it when it’s first given to Tony. We don’t really see it again until later, and then we see it one more time when Tony looks at it in the car. I think it should have been a much more involved plot point because the book is the guide for African-American travelers to find motels, restaurants, and filling stations that would serve them, but they never use it seriously! I mean come on!
White Savior. So, this is part of the controversy surrounding this movie and honestly, it really does come off that way. Who knows if that was the intention or not but it’s really kind of glaring. I thought it was odd how they went out of their way to show us Don’s house and its basically Africa in there, not to mention, his “uppity” mindset, the man has a throne in his house. Then literally every situation Don gets into, Tony must come and rescue him. This happens a lot. Then there’s all those times when Tony is teaching Don about black people, because you know, all black people love fried chicken and Little Richard. Sure, sure, you can argue that it just shows that Tony is also a bit racist but still. It’s just really weird how they go about that. Plus, there’s this other scene in a bathroom that also has a weird undertone and not because of the moment but because of it was included at all? I don’t know lol. I mean, it’s like they put Don into situations just so Tony can be the savior… I don’t know if that’s how it happened in real life, but it doesn’t sit well.
Ghosts Over the Issues. Obviously with this movie being set in the 60’s there’s a ton that’s going to happen here. My problem is that it brings up those moments but don’t quite make it in understanding them through the lens of the character it’s happening to. You can argue that as the movie is clearly about Tony, and he doesn’t understand completely so that might be the problem, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. There’s a good scene that’s wonderfully acted by Ali, but the things he’s saying is stuff we hadn’t seen. He talks about not being good enough for white people except when he’s playing for them, but he’s also not accepted by black people because he’s not like them. That would have been a great moment if we ever saw that. We maybe see that one time when he’s invited to play horse shoes and declines. That wasn’t because he “wasn’t like them” they were like “man forget you!” because he didn’t want to play! That doesn’t equate! If you’re going to have a character say something like that, then give us reasons to understand WHY HE’D SAY THAT! Not to mention, Don knows he’s in the South and that he shouldn’t go off on his own, why does he keep doing it then? He’s a smart guy. I just didn’t understand that either.
Overall, I think Green Book is a good and well-made movie. The best thing it has to offer are the performances from Mortensen and Ali. They are fantastic and they play to each other’s strengths very well. Their characters are very different which allows for lots of time of learning and understanding each other and growing to trust and care for the other. All that stuff is great and probably what you should watch the movie for. The music included is beautiful, Don mostly plays a lot of Jazz and he explains why, but we also get some classical and some other types of music. It’s amazing, music feeds the soul. There are charming moments between the two for their friendship as well. Now, obviously there is of course the other stuff, like how the movie is named after something that should have been more integral than it was in the film and that’s lame. Or how it has lots of “white savior” vibes, especially in places where the scripts make Don go off and do stupid things when he is clearly an intelligent man. It doesn’t make sense or add up and I did not like that. I won’t go into it further but it’s a movie I’d recommend watching if you’re a fan of either Viggo Mortensen or Mahershala Ali, which I am of both actors, so take that for what it’s worth.
Rating: 3.69 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Green Book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!
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Movie Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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Summary: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Pros:
Cast and Characters.
  • Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash. He lives with his wife and children in the Washington wilderness. He is not into the whole “American lifestyle” and teaches their children survival skills, left wing politics among other things. He home schools them, he encourages them to read books and to talk about it, he allows his children to freely express themselves, even if that includes cursing. He tells them the truth, he doesn’t sugar coat anything and I actually liked that about him. I think if parents trusted their children a bit more, they might be surprised how their children (especially their older ones) react. This is a perfect role for Viggo Mortensen. His laid back persona makes this character work and to keep him likable. It would be really easy to make Ben an unlikable rude dude due to him not conforming to social norms, like not letting his children drink wine (great scene in the film), or explaining sex etc. But I think Mortensen manages to do so.
  • George McKay as Bo Cash. I thought he was a standout. I really like George McKay. Bo is the oldest of the kids, he is about 18 and he is crossing over into manhood (which the film starts out with him doing a “ritual” of sorts). He is obviously very intelligent but he is socially awkward as he has spent most of his life away from other people. There is a point in the beginning of the film where he runs into some girls at a store he and his father go to and he has no idea what to say to them. There is another scene later with another girl. He knows that he’s weird and it doesn’t seem to bother him much but as he is becoming his own man, he begins to want things outside of where they live and his family. I think McKay was fantastic here. He was very quiet, always in the background, prepared to do what he needs too. His American accent was also very good.
  • The other kids. So there are five other children: Keilyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai. They all do very well too. Rellian has a lot of anger and it’s easy to see in the beginning, it comes to everyone’s notice later on in the film. Keilyr and Vespyr are the teenage girls, not sure who was oldest (I think Vespyr) but they had a great relationship with each other. Zaja and Nai were the youngest girl and boy. Zaja was very smart compared to other kids her age and Nai being the youngest, a lot of stuff he says is hilarious.
The Cinematography. As soon as the film starts, we are greeted with shots of the forest and I immediately said “wow, this looks beautiful”. The look of this film, it’s so warm and crisp. As the characters live in the wilderness and pretty much wear whatever the want, the colors are so vibrant and bright, not to mention, Vespyr and Keilyr have red hair (like their mother) and their hair is definitely captured very beautifully on screen. There is a scene at the end, where they’re dancing around a bonfire, that’s probably my favorite scene and the look has a lot to do with it.
The Music. With a film like this, I can imagine the music being very important and Alex Somers manages to create a score that is not only whimsical, but sad and in a way uplifting. I really liked it. Coupled with the beautiful cinematography, the ambiance and feel of the film was elevated for me. The song chosen at the end, was chosen well. It fit.
The Dinner Scene. I don’t want to spoil anything in particular, but there are two scenes involving the family that were the most memorable to me. The Cash family has connected with Leslie’s (the mom) sister and this is the first time we really see just how different they are. Zaja asks for some wine and Ben is willing to give her some but Harper and her husband “children don’t drink wine” and he of course brings up other countries but “it’s not right”. One of Harper’s sons is playing a video game at the table, she tells him to put it away and he responds with an attitude and doesn’t do it right away, whereas Ben’s children actually does what he says and he doesn’t raise his voice to them. Harper also gets emotional when one of her sons asks what happened to a family member and Ben tells him exactly what happened instead of sugar coating it like their dad did. It was a great scene.
Bill of Rights Scene. This is after the dinner scene the next day. Harper brings up about Ben’s kids not being in a public school and he tells them they are smarter without it and to prove his point, he has one of his children explain something that Harper’s kids don’t know but should know.
The Store Scene. It’s cute and funny. That’s all I will say.
The Bonfire Scene. Again, without spoiling, there is a scene at the end, where the family pretty much as a bonfire, it’s during the day, so the look is beautiful, the way the sun and sky is captured. Just wow. Plus, with the song that Kielyr sings… it was beautiful. If you watched the Oscars, the scene they chose to show for Viggo Mortensen’s clip was from this scene.
Cons:
The Grandfather. Now, I totally understand where he was coming from but oh my goodness…  he was so annoying and disrespectful. Yes, Ben’s ways of raising his kids was extreme but to do what he did, I thought that was rude and it really didn’t let me like the character.
Weird/Not For Everyone. This is one of those films that isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s weird, the characters are strange, the ways of the main family is weird… it’s weird. That might turn a lot of people off.
The Ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it seems like the ending was a let down. The entire time the family has this way of doing things, then stuff starts to happen, the father fights against this, most of the kids fight against this but then the end happens and while it’s sweet, I thought it was a cop out.
Overall, I really liked Captain Fantastic, I thought it was a beautifully shot movie. The music added a lot to the film, the main family was kooky but I quite enjoyed spending the time with them we did, the oldest son especially being a standout. This is a character study like film that focuses heavily on the family, especially the dad and I think the questions this movie puts out there are important ones. However, I do think the movie is strange and tries maybe a bit too hard to be strange and weird, which may turn a lot of people off. I also think the ending was a bit of a let down.
Rating: 3.85 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Captain Fantastic, if so what did you think about it? Is it a film you’d think you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments below!
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