Green Book 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
In an order to come up with a clever word that perfectly describes GREEN BOOK, I went to thesaurus.com and typed in “average”. Words like “mediocre”, “ordinary” and “boilerplate” all showed up, but at the end of the day, I still feel like “average” works best. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the film as it features top notch performances and wonderful set pieces, but the film is so…pedestrian…that it feels like something we’ve seen before, yet something we know we’re going to instantly forget.
In 1964, musical prodigy Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) hires lifetime thug Tony (Mortensen) to drive him around the Deep South on a private concert tour. Tony is not only Don’s driver, he also acts as sort of a bodyguard for him and handles some of the things Don can’t or won’t do. As they make their way to through the Midwest and to the South, the two opposites develop a mutual respect for each other and along the way, they both grow to appreciate one another and end all racial tension in America during the 60’s. I joke, of course, but this film is told with such a glossy, almost cartoony finish that I can’t help but make fun of it. You see, Tony is a dumb, Italian thug that is constantly turning down the Mafia while Don is an educated, homosexual black man that doesn’t know where he belongs. Tony and Don are what a cartoon sketch artist at a carnival would draw if you asked them to draw an Italian thug and a gay black man.
The story itself (true or not) is a fine one and maybe even one that should be told. But the timing of this film is confusing. With the racial tensions and racial awakening America is going through right now, seeing a movie that handles the subject with caricatures of racial stereotypes and addresses the issues with kid gloves feels like a tone deaf move for everyone involved. For example, there’s actually a discussion between Don and Tony regarding the stereotype that black people like fried chicken and Italians like pasta. That’s the bad stereotype that they have to break through in order to understand each other. It was comical, but not in the laugh out loud way, but more in the “are they really doing this” type of way.
The tropes don’t stop there. We see Don get turned away from a suit store that won’t let him try something on and we see a white family refuse to let him use their indoor bathroom. These are sad realities of the era for sure, but the film refuses to go any deeper than that and oftentimes feels like a movie trying to explain racism to a kindergarten class. I imagine that the real life Tony and Don encountered some horrific things during their two month journey and maybe even had some deeper discussions about the differences between their races. But whether it was the source material or the lack of imagination from the guy that wrote SHALLOW HAL, the entire movie induces one long eye roll.
In 1989, DRIVING MISS DAISY won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Daisy was a lighthearted look at racism in the South and even at the time, some people groaned that the movie won Best Picture despite it’s fairy-tale handling of racism. Fifteen years later, CRASH won Best Picture and pundits incorrectly predicted that would be the last film to handle racism so clumsily and win the Academy’s top prize. But another fifteen years went by and the Academy awarded their top prize to GREEN BOOK, which feels like a giant step backwards. However, let’s ignore just for a second that the film handles racism with kid gloves or reduces it’s leading female character to a desperate stay at home mom waiting to hear from her traveling husband, and you still have a lackluster movie that is barely a half a step above any number of dialogue driven indie films. With all due respect to Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, they can do better than this and for that matter, so can the Academy.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: When compared to the Blu-ray, the 4K version of GREEN BOOK offers a handful of improvements across the board, mainly in sharp details and color depth. Although I presume this was taken directly from the 3.4k master, a lot of the presentation feels like a standard 2K upconversion. That said, the improvements are there when you look for them and overall, this is a nice presentation.
Audio: The same Dolby Atmos track from the Blu-ray is included here and I found it to be crystal clear. The musical performances in particular sound wonderful.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
Featurettes (13:40): Three featurettes, none of which are long enough to make an impact. One looks at the real Green Book, the other two focus on the characters and performances.