Thursday, July 15, 2010
Movie of the Week
DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
Starring- Spike Lee, John Turturro, Danny Aiello, Bill Nunn
It is the hottest day of the year in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a black and Puerto Rican neighborhood, and the tension that always simmers beneath the surface of its residents is about to boil over. In this sometimes funny, poignant and volatile commentary on race relations, Lee, as director and star, makes you feel the heat both literally and figuratively.
The main focus of the film is on the way the various ethnic groups interact, and how those interactions culminate at the end of a very hectic day. Lee plays Mookie, a pizza delivery guy for Sal's Pizza, which is owned and operated by Sal (Aiello) and his two sons who are of Italian decent. Sal's two sons represent opposite ends of the spectrum, Vito is friendly with Mookie and accepting of the different races that live in the neighborhood, while Pino is openly bigoted and says that he "detests the place like a sickness." Also living in the neighborhood is the boom box toting Radio Raheem, a large, militant black man who plays Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" nonstop wherever he goes; the matriarch of the neighborhood, Mother-Sister and her would be suitor, the drunk Da Mayor; and Mookie and Raheem's inflammatory friend, Buggin' Out.
Buggin' Out is offended that the wall of fame in Sal's Pizza Shop has no black people on it, and he gets into it with Sal and Pino as he tries to stage a protest against Sal's seeming racial intolerance. Raheem is the only one who joins with Buggin' Out, having been previously ejected from Sal's for blasting his music. Mookie serves as the bridge between the two factions, hoping that cooler heads will prevail, despite the mutual acrimony. As the day wears on and the heat refuses to break, even those who might not be provoked get stoked into action. It all comes to a violent head as Raheem and Sal fight it out in the Pizza shop. There is a more tragic end to it all, that I will not divulge here, but the riot that ensues is triggered by an unlikely source, and the resolution is somewhat bittersweet.
I credit Lee for creating a film that addresses the issue of race without being preachy, one-sided or angry. Do The Right Thing can leave you feeling ambiguous about the message, but I think the true message of the movie is to make you think about race, relationships and how they play out in your life. This film has a great variety of tones going from funny to tragic and back again while keeping you riveted the entire time. In my opinion, this film is Lee's masterpiece.
Things to Watch for-
Samuel L. Jackson as the D.J. Senor Love Daddy
The racial slur montage
Rosie Perez as Mookie's Girlfriend
"Hey, Sal, how come they ain't no brothas on the wall?"