Sunday, November 25, 2018

Green Book

As a major studio release, Green Book has the expected number of Hollywood moments -- those scenes where the emoting and speechifying take off. One that was edited for the trailer comes midpoint in the film. Dr. Donald Shirley, the black classically trained pianist, has just been admonished by his white driver and assistant, who earlier in the film displayed a penchant for racial prejudice, for essentially not being in touch with his, Shirley's, roots. According to the film, Shirley, incredibly, was unfamiliar with Little Richard and Aretha Franklin and much of African-American popular music, but, in the movie, performed something that approximated blues-inflected classical music in his concerts and lived in an apartment above Carnegie Hall that was a shrine to Africana. He actually met Tony wearing a regal tribal robe and sitting on a throne (compensation?). In the pivotal confrontation mid-film, the pianist and his driver are standing in the pouring rain, Shirley has been offended by Tony's remarks and is walking who knows where when he stops. "If I'm not black enough, and I'm not white enough, and I'm not man enough, then, Tony, what am I?" The trailer did not include the phrase "man enough," perhaps not to give away that Shirley was gay. He was depicted in the film naked at the YMCA, having been arrested with, presumably, a man he had met there. Little is made of Shirley's sexuality beyond this horrifyingly tin-eared scene, in which Tony bribes the police to let Shirley go. The choice for the edit is clear -- the producers did not want to introduce the sexuality element into the promotion for a film that offers NO insight into that dimension of Shirley's personality. Exploring the isolation that most certainly grew out of the intersection of race and sexuality and cultural upbringing would have been fascinating to me. I guess we'll have to wait a little longer for those stories from the majors.

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