I saw Green Book after it had won the Oscar for best picture. I knew it was a big surprise as the favorites to win were Roma, The Favourite, BlackKlansman, and A Star is Born. Now that I have watched Green Book I understand why everyone was surprised. While the movie gets major points for bringing to the screen a harsh and significant part of our history and some excellent acting, the movie was run of the mill, often clichéd, and sadly often a bore.
Right off the bat, I want to mention the movie offers a pair of dazzling lead performances. Mortensen has simply never been better. With his spot-on Brooklyn accent and noticeable weight gain, Mortensen fearlessly disappears into his complex role with extreme ease and courage. Matching him is Mahershala Ali, who took home his second academy award for his performance. ( He won his first Oscar for Moonlight, which I thought should have went to Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. Ali had a minimal role in Moonlight which didn’t give him a chance to flex his acting muscles. Thankfully that’s not the case here. ) In Green Book, Ali completely captures the essence of a man who has a strong sense of right and wrong, yet who’s loneliness and oppression often gets the best of him. Ali does this without overacting. On the contrary he plays this role extremely subdued, saying so much with just his eyes and posture. I felt great empathy for Ali’s character, which is the essence of what it means to be a great actor. Ali and Mortensen play off each other perfectly and their on screen chemistry almost makes Green Book worth watching. But not quite.
On the other hand…..Green Book seemed to me to take a very simplistic view of its complex subject matter. I felt it resorted to caricatures and unrealistic situations to get its point across.( and across , and across….) The movie was definitely repetitive. It felt like the same three scenes were being played on repeat almost through out. Its over two hours long, yet without this filler it would have probably been less than 90 minutes. Very little of what we see on screen feels like something real. It feels staged and forced despite it being based on a true story (though it has received criticism for how inaccurate much of it is) The personal story is also not compelling: Two guys who are complete opposites on a road trip down south where they discover they had more in common then they originally expected and become friends. So what? We’ve seen that story played out a million times before.
All of this reminds me of the movie Crash, which won the Oscar in 2006. Crash also took an elementary and simplistic look at race related issues with a boring story. Funny enough Crash, like Green Book, also got a lot of flack for winning against far superior films. Films such as Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich.
So what are we left with? We have a movie that’s core message lacks nuance, depth and perhaps veracity paired with a repetitive cliched story. It’s really shame given all the potential of the true story and the amazing lead actors. For my vote, The Favourite should have won best picture. Hands down.