Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do the Right Thing

What was most interesting to me about this movie is that there were two sides to it, but they blended together extremely fluidly. It's sort of a comedy about every day life in the city, but it's also a searing, controversial drama about race. It seems like these aspects might not work well together, but they really do. This is only the second Spike Lee film I've seen so I can't really say a ton about him, but he does seem to have some interesting ideas.

The movie takes place mostly during a single, extremely hot day in Brooklyn. Lee plays Mookie, who has a sister he lives with, an extremely boisterous girlfriend played by Rosie Perez (and who dances in the opening credit sequence, which is so iconic that I recognized it instantly despite not having seen it before), and works at an Italian-owned pizza restaurant as a delivery boy. He goes about his day, delivering pizzas, avoiding the heat, and bumping into a number of the neighborhood eccentrics that surround him. A bit of tension, driven by the heat, slowly starts to boil as a couple people start to butt heads with Danny Aiello's Sal, the restaurant's owner. One is Buggin' Out, who takes issue with the fact that the place's "wall of fame" is populated exclusively by Italians, and who is played by Giancarlo Esposito, in a performance that is absolutely fascinating watching him play the endless calm and calculating Gus Fring on Breaking Bad. The other is Radio Raheem, who carries around a huge boom box blasting "Fight the Power", and who just seems to not like most people.

The movie goes along, introducing and spending time with its various characters, like John Turturro's Pino, the son of Sal, who's a racist but also hypocritical about it (he loves Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson but justifies it by saying they're "not really black"), and Love Daddy, a fast-talking radio DJ who sort of acts as a narrator and is played by Samuel L. Jackson. Eventually though, the simmering tension comes to a head, in a series of events that unfold surprisingly quickly change the entire mood of the film. Mookie does something that has been much debated over time, but only really by white people. It's an act of violence that causes a full-on riot, but it also probably saved some people's lives. The movie's called "Do the Right Thing", and I think that he does, but the movie's not about supplying simple answers to complicated questions about race. The types of events that caused Lee to write the movie in the first place don't happen as often as they used to, but as long as they continue to occur anywhere, it's the kind of movie that people should be watching, if only to make them think a little bit.

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