Sunday, December 9, 2018

Green Book [2018]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Green Book [2018] (directed and cowritten by Peter Farrelly, along with Nick Vellelonga and Brian Hayes Currie) tells the sad story of what it was like "back in the day" for African American people in the Jim Crow South -- as special "Green Book" was put out by Exxon to help African Americans who were traveling to know which gas stations, hotels and restaurants would serve them (many indeed _most_ commercial establishments would not, and were legal protected by the Jim Crow (Segregationist) laws of the time from being required to do so.

As we discussed this movie over dinner in my Servite community recently, I confessed that I had a real difficulty watching the film -- it remains simply stunning to me that ANYONE much less someone claiming to be a Christian [Mt 25:40] or for that matter an American -- the "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and all from our Declaration of Independence" -- could so blatantly even _gleefully_ mistreat an entire group (in this case, race) of human beings like this "You know, that's 'just' the way we do things here..." WHY???  I'd be either in jail, or would have set myself on fire or hung myself in despair (or so I'd hope...).

So then ... to the movie ...

Dr. Don Shirley [wikip] (played in the movie by Mahershala Ali), Florida born in 1927, Jamaican-American in ancestry, at age 9 he was invited to study music in the Soviet Union at the Leningrad Conservatory, and later having studied at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., he became virtuoso in CLASSICAL PIANO, something that African Americans at the time were not necessarily known for.  SO ... he decided, as part of his personal contribution to the African American Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s-60s, to embark on a tour of various cities in the Deep South to ... give concerts in classical music.  Since traveling in the Deep South as an African American was not necessarily safe at the time, he hired as a driver / bodyguard Tony "Lip" Vallelonga, a bouncer of Italian American ancestry at New York's Copacabana nightclub.   Tony was temporarily out of work because of "remodelling" being done at the club.

To the film's credit, Tony is not portrayed as some sort of a Civil Rights crusader.  He was doing this simply because he needed the work.  Tellingly, in an early scene, when Tony's wife Dolores (played by Linda Cardelini) had given two African American workmen who had come to their apartment for a plumbing job glasses of water, Tony discreetly took their glasses after they had finished AND THREW THEM AWAY (Dolores, seeing what her husband had done, later with similar discretion pulled them out of the trash and washed them).  The scene AS QUIETLY UGLY AS IT IS is in my mind COMPLETELY REALISTIC.  Yes, THAT was the time, my own family would have almost certainly done _no better_.

So ... as the story progressed, Tony learned what it was like to be ... black.  And Don Shirley learned ... IMHO that he had made the right decision to embark on his tour.  How many white Southerners he "converted" to accepting black Civil Rights, one can only guess, but he DID convert Tony.

Great story.

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