Green Book

November 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen, Linda Cardellini
Directed by: Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary”)
Written by: Peter Farrelly (“Hall Pass”), Brian Hayes Currie (“Two Tickets to Paradise”) and Nick Vallelonga (“Choker”)

When filmmakers step out of their comfort zones, things can sometimes get interesting. This year, we saw gore hound Eli Roth (“Hostel”) craft a spooky, yet kid-friendly flick, with “The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” We also got another chapter from the “Halloween” horror franchise, this time from the perspective of drama/comedy director David Gordon Green (“Stronger”). Now, Peter Farrelly — one half of the directing duo known as the Farrelly brothers (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary”) — splits from his sibling for the first time and ventures out on his own to make “Green Book,” a charming, crowd-pleasing dramedy that, unfortunately, pulls its punches on race relations.

Set in New York City in 1962, “Green Book” tells the true story of two men who couldn’t be more different from one another — Dr. Don Shirley (Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali), a sophisticated Jamaican-American classical pianist, and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Academy Award-nominee Viggo Mortensen), a working-class nightclub bouncer with a gift for gab.

The men find themselves on the road together when Don hires Tony to be his driver and security during a two-month-long concert tour through the Deep South. This, of course, was during the Jim Crow era when laws mandated racial segregation. The film’s title refers to the “Negro Motorist Green Book,” a travel guide blacks could refer to so they could know which establishments (restaurants, hotels, etc.) were considered African-American-friendly. With Tony’s “innate ability to handle trouble,” they embark on a trip that ends with both of them learning about tolerance and true friendship.

Its messaging on race, however, is a little trickier. “Green Book” is serious when it needs to be, but there’s also humor at its heart. Recent films like “The Help” and “Hidden Figures” have also taken a more lighthearted approach to the painful subject of racism, and there’s no denying that it’s a tough balancing act that filmmakers need to be mindful of so they don’t appear flippant on the issue.

“Green Book”’s intention isn’t to preach or hammer a message home with harrowing images or depictions of ultra-realistic bigotry. If audiences are looking for something like that, they should go stream “Mississippi Burning” or “American History X.” Instead, “Green Book” is focused on the dynamic between Don and Tony and how they maneuver beyond their own personal biases to respect each other.

No one ever said racism in this country doesn’t exist anymore because Barack Obama was twice elected President, and no one is saying anything similar because “Green Book,” with all its mainstream appeal and handful of hokey clichés, is an enjoyable picture. Farrelly didn’t produce a flawless film, but he hit an appropriately inspirational and life-affirming theme and tone with ease.

A Dangerous Method

January 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Directed by: David Cronenberg (“Eastern Promises”)
Written by: Christopher Hampton (“Atonement”)

For all of Freud’s innumerable contributions to the field of psychology, his work has also carried the unfortunate side effect of propagating a number of misguided, outdated, and resilient stereotypes about the profession. The seemingly far-out idea of the Oedipus complex, for example, is so deeply associated as a psychological concept that some people outside of the field might not even realize that a good chunk of Freud’s work is no longer (and in some cases was never) largely supported. Still, his contributions to the field were vital and every psychology student learns a lot about the man’s professional career. However, his personal life is something that is barely looked at, even by students. His relationship with fellow psychologist Carl Jung is the center of “A Dangerous Method.” Directed by David Cronenberg, the film is a look into the admiration and eventual tension between these two titans of the psychological field.

While confronting and experimenting with the treatment of the disturbed Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), psychiatrist Carl Jung gets to interact and work along with his mentor and idol Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). As Spielreins and Knightley’s relationship extends beyond doctor/patient and Freud and Jung’s ideas begin to separate, tension rises between the three.

The element of “A Dangerous Method” that is likely to be discussed the most is the bizarre performance by Knightley. In the first half of the film, she overacts tremendously, twitching and protruding her bottom jaw causing an underbite and speaking through a poor Russian accent (when she could speak without stammering). Though the transition she makes back to sanity is a little too sudden, it is welcome, and her performance is much easier to handle when she has calmed down a bit. Capping off an outstanding year, Fassbender once again puts in a fantastic performance as Jung. It isn’t a flashy role, but he anchors the film and embodies the character very well. It truly is a travesty that Fassbender was not recognized with an Oscar nomination for any of the work he did this past year. Mortensen, albeit in a smaller role, also delivers as Freud, smoking the signature cigar in nearly every scene and playing off of Fassbender with great chemistry.

“A Dangerous Method” is at its best when it delves into the intricacies of its psychological concepts. The discussion of psychological theories and beliefs between both Jung and Freud and Jung and Sabina are interesting to listen to and the scenes where Jung performs psychotherapy with Sabina and begin to get to the roots of her problems are fascinating. The film also accurately portrays the still relevant controversial stances from Freud such as his insistence on sexual drive being vital to human psychology. Unfortunately, when the movie takes this concept and turns the film into a sexual drama, it begins to lose its luster.

Since most of the information about Freud and Jung is largely academic and found mostly in psychology textbooks, “A Dangerous Method” succeeding in providing audiences with a rarely heard of human side to both of these men. Though the second half of the film is a little less successful than the first (not to mention the fits of exaggerated acting from Knightley), “A Dangerous Method” is worth seeing for Mortenson, and especially Fassbender’s performances alone.

The Road

November 30, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron
Directed by: John Hillcoat (“The Proposition”)
Written by: Joe Penhall (“Enduring Love”)

Man is left to fend for himself in the excessively bleak and beautifully shot film “The Road.” Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy (the same author who gave us 2007’s Academy Award Best Picture winner “No Country for Old Men”), “The Road” stars Oscar-nominee Viggo Mortensen (“Eastern Promises”) as a father who is trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world with his son (Kodie Smith-McPhee). The film follows the two traveling south towards the coast and avoiding anyone they see out of fear for their safety. Since food is scarce everywhere, many people have resorted to cannibalism. While the narrative leaves more to be desired, director John Hillcoat and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe create a devastatingly miserable atmosphere that can’t be shaken. Along with the gray palette and brilliant performance by Mortensen and McPhee, “The Road” may not be one many in the mainstream will want to travel, but there is a daunting strangeness that could reel some of the more curious cineastes who have a yearning for something truly disheartening.