Free Newsletter sign-up
Search Justinian
Justinian's news stories

How to win friends and become a judge ... All in the family ... Great speech at the Free Willy show ... Judicial appointment in the mail ... Temple of Federal Justice on hold ... ALRC family law recommendations and their political implications ... A letter from Perth ... Read more ... 


Justinian Columnists

Rush: a parallel universe ... A gaping hole in the Rush defamation case ... Evidence available to support the truth defence about "scandalously inappropriate behaviour" ... Judge decides witness should not called ... Tendency evidence ... Case management more important than the truth ... Read more ... 


 

 

Justinian's Bloggers

Dutton's dob-in law ... Peach Melba gets her head around the government's secrecy certificates ... Visa applicants not supposed to know what the government knows ... Procedural fairness ... Secret evidence ... Public interest ... AAT ... Read more ... 

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    "Smearing Sir Keith, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch was multi-generational, muck-spreading in which the facts were incidental, if not accidental, and the journalistic jaundice and corporate self-interest were fundamental." 

    Murdoch retainer and head of News Corp, Robert Thomson, on The New York Times' 20,000 word investigation into the influence of Murdoch's media. The Sir Keith Murdoch Oration, April 16, 2019 ... Read more flatulence ... 


    Justinian Featurettes

    Melissa Davey is the ace reporter from The Guardian who covered the Pell trial from beginning to end ... Compassionate, driven and intense ... Book under steam ... Journalism and the meaning of life ... A questing spirit is On The Couch ... Read more ... 


    Justinian's archive

    Heart of the bar ... News from the Street of Shame ... Deutschland marshalling forces ... The Sevens rub tummies ... Eating and talking ... Interviews with Queens' Counsel ... Advocacy skills require being in many courts at once ... From Justinian's archive, September 2014 ... Read more ... 


     

     

    « Too much mush | Main | Richard Beasley SC »
    Friday
    Feb082019

    Green Book: not all black and white

    Green Book, reviewed by Miss Lumière ... America in the 1960s ... The white working class tough guy on a tour of the South with a refined black musician ... What could go wrong? ... Food for thought ... "Motorist's guide for negroes" 

    Driving Miss Daisy it ain't. 

    And that's a blessed relief if, like this reviewer, you prefer your film fare with a little more substance and a lot more bite.

    Green Book, "inspired by a true story", has plenty of political bite, as well as gigantic messy helpings of food – plates of Italian meatballs and clam linguine, handfuls of hotdogs and cheeseburgers and buckets of greasy Southern deep-fried chicken to chew on.

    It's well known that one of the film's leads, Viggo Mortensen, who plays Bronx tough-guy Tony Vallelonga, rigorously stuffed his face for the role (no pun intended). 

    It worked. He makes an all-too convincing working class Italian slob of Tony, also known as Tony Lip (for his "bullshitting", not his appetite).

    On the road as a driver for one of America's first black pianist celebrities, the elegant and precious Dr Don Shirley, he continues stuffing himself, state by state.

    And what a state the US was in, in 1962. 

    The title Green Book refers to what was then the "negro motorist's guide" to places where blacks could "vacation without aggravation" i.e. the restaurants and motels that were "negro friendly".

    Shirley, who was inveigled to abandon a classical music concert career due to lack of "acceptance" had deliberately opted to tour the Deep South with his modern jazz trio.  

    As Tony asks in his thick-headed way "why?" The film answers that question, but it isn't the same answer that Shirley has given himself. 

    That's both a strength and a weakness in the screenplay.

    Co-written by Tony's son, the actor, writer and director Nick Vallelonga, the film rather too hastily promotes the idea that standing up for yourself in southern America was a sure-fire way to regain one's dignity as a black man.

    James Baldwin (and your reviewer) beg to differ - it was more than likely a sure-fire way of getting lynched.

    And the fact was, Shirley and Vallelonga were only released from a prison cell in Alabama - after an ugly altercation with the local constabulary - due to the intervention of the then US attorney general Robert Kennedy, a personal friend of Shirley's.

    A case of the politics of reality overwhelming the unreality of film. 

    But I digress. The film is also about two human beings finding their humanity.

    Shirley's musical genius (and his courage) made him a pedant, an intellectual snob and a loner, qualities exquisitely conveyed by Mahershala Ali who was so luminous in Moonlight.

    While Green Book has all the usual road movie tropes - sweeping landscapes, an odd couple, pride and prejudice (both inside and outside the car), deception, danger and redemption - it also has insight and humour at both characters' expense.

    It that sense it's an equal opportunity, politically incorrect film.

    The screenplay doesn't baulk at portraying class differences or showing Tony and his Italian milieu as blatant racists who call black people "melanzane" and can't quite believe Shirley is Tony's "boss".

    One of the most moving scenes involving the oddity of such as arrangement in sixties America occurs when Tony stops the gleaming sky-blue Cadillac provided by Shirley's record company for the tour alongside a field where poor black workers are toiling in the dust and heat. 

    Tony steps out of the driver's seat and opens the back door for Shirley, meticulously attired in a suit. 

    The workers lean on their hoes in a daze, mesmerised by this extraordinary vision (surely not the Vision Splendid) as Shirley himself seems to look through them to a future he's intent on creating. 

    Nothing is said, and in a film full of both fine and ugly words, it's an eloquent moment.

    There are several more similar moments in the course of two hours, as well a generous serving of cheese at the end.

    Your reviewer won't spoil it all for you, but the final scenes involve yet more food, even for thought.

    P.S. Needless to say, the music is brilliant.

    Green Book is screening now. It has been nominated for five Oscars. 

    Reader Comments

    There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
    Editor Permission Required
    You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.