The co-director of There’s Something About Mary could nab his first Oscar thanks to his brilliant race drama. Inspired by true events, Green Book follows a black pianist (Mahershala Ali) as he travels through the racist south circa 1962.
Viggo Mortensen plays Ali’s driver, a New Yorker who harbors profoundly racist views of black Americans.
It’s a quintessential road picture. Two mismatched souls lower their defenses after spending too much time in the same car.
Farrelly wants Green Book to win as many awards as possible. To get there, he’s taking an uplifting approach to Oscar season campaigning. If these disparate souls can get along, so can we, he argues.
That spirit permeates his interview with The Daily Mail.
‘We want love, we want happiness, we want to be treated equally. That’s not asking that much and you realize when you talk to each other, you’ve got the same goals. You’re coming at them from different ways and there are hurt feelings, but we are all the same people who want the same things. So if you do talk, you recognize that, and you get closer, and closer, and closer.’
That message is humble, heartfelt and refreshing in our dividing times. He even deftly dodged the inevitable political landmine during the chat.
‘I hope that everybody sees this movie, and it’s not talking to one side or the other. I’ve been asked, “What do you think of the guy in the White House?” I’m not going to answer that.
He didn’t stop there, though.
Farrelly discussed racial progress, comparing what Ali’s character endured in Green Book to what black Americans today face.
‘I wish we were showing this movie and looking back and saying, “Can you believe that’s what America was like in 1962? God, it’s gotten good,”‘ he added.
‘But it hasn’t. Things have changed, things have improved, and then things have gotten worse (emphasis added).
‘Progress doesn’t go like that (up). It goes like this (up and down) and there are downturns and we’re in one and that’s why I think Green Book is an important movie to remind us that we are all the same people.
He’s right that progress often doesn’t track in a linear fashion. Casting doubt on the monumental racial progress from the early 1960s to today, though, isn’t just wrong.
It’s akin to Flat Earth thinking.
Need proof? It should be obvious, but let’s run through a few examples.
In Green Book times, some American neighborhoods had separate water fountains for black and white patrons. Civil rights legislation officially ended this heinous state of affairs in the mid-60s.
Back then, a televised interracial kiss was still years away (courtesy of Star Trek in 1968). Today, interracial romance and sex are common place on screens large and small. If it causes any outrage, it’s darn near microscopic in size.
In the 1970s O.J. Simpson’s Hertz commercials revolutionized advertising based primarily on the color of his skin. His popular spots had to play up the approving looks by white airport denizens to justify the star’s appearance.
Today? People of color are everywhere in the advertising world. Major companies throw millions at popular black stars to promote their products.
Interracial marriage is on the rise. Once again, opposition is relegated to a puny minority who dare not speak their views in public for fear of being ostracized.
And rightly so.
Perhaps the biggest example of how American culture differs from the 1962 version? Roseanne Barr, the biggest sitcom comeback of 2018, lost her show and likely her career after sending one racially charged Tweet.
Remember how Michael Richards’ career came to a screeching halt after he hurled the “n-word” at a comedy club patron.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted to using the n-word decades ago, one of several racially charged matters that crushed her business empire.
Do racial injustices remain? Of course. It’s absurd to deny it, and racism can be seen in virtually every part of our culture. Still.
That won’t change in our lifetimes, sadly.
The race discussion is one of the fascinating parts of the Green Book blowback. Films are all about change, particularly for the key characters in play. It’s no spoiler to say Mortensen’s character grows during his road trip, pushing past some of the biases he clung to for decades.
Scenes like this showcase two people connecting on a powerful level.
Yet some insist Green Book isn’t woke enough.
But this movie was written, directed and produced by white people for white people, almost none of whom will have never found themselves at risk of a hate crime, much less a hate crime neatly solved by a tough white guy who, in one scene, eats an entire pizza folded up like a slice while relaxing in his undershirt and shorts.
The same writer adds that Mortensen’s character isn’t “salvageable.” Let that sink in.
At Jezebel.com, where social justice warriors thrive, the news is similarly sour.
With its insistence on the pretense of loving our way into racial harmony, the movie exists almost exclusively to allow white moviegoers to nod sagely about “how far we’ve come” before calling the cops on their black neighbors for not waving hello.
Yes, because one person foolishly called the police on a black neighbor it means we haven’t improved as a culture since 1962.
Farrelly works in Hollywood, a business community that insists both President Donald Trump and many of his admirers are racist. White supremacy is on the rise, and it’s sweeping the nation.
Or so they say sans hard proof.
To play up the nation’s racial progress without paying lip service to that false narrative could lose Farrelly a few Oscar votes. Given how politically charged the Academy Awards are in 2019, that might mean the difference between an acceptance speech and a forced reaction shot for Farrelly.
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]