Dear friend Roger,
Since it is my summer vacations, I have been going over many titles that you have recommended as ‘great’. And almost all of them are, such as Hoop Dreams, Casablanca, Goodfellas and many and I profusely thank you for them. However, this letter is in regard to the Spike Lee movie titled ‘Do The Right Thing’ about which mine and your opinion seem to diverge.
As you might remember, it takes place on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where Salvatore “Sal” Fragione owns a pizza shop which has a Wall Of Fame with photos of Italian-American legends. A neighborhood local Bugging Out finds it racist because there is not single African-American up there. And eventually, on the hottest day in Brooklyn, violence breaks out.
Spike Lee meticulously traces the various events unfolding the day and molds characters with distinctive personalities. The whole movie is structured like a Stephen King novel, where 3/4th of the plot is just a build up to the explosion set to unfold in the 1/4th of it.
However, this work looks disoriented to me. There are too many characters Lee is playing with at once. He intends to bring racism and bigotry at the center, but all he ends up doing is creating a work which seems to uphold violence, by illustrating an aftermath scene which shows that nothing of grave consequence ever transpires of it.
In its way, Do The Right Thing reminds me of Fight Club, where the eventual hate builds up to such an extent that it erupts eventually in volcanic proportions. I admire such movies, because they incite strong feelings from the viewer. He either loves it very much or hates very much. There is no middle ground.
But I, unfortunately, seem to belong to the latter group. The characters seem to be telling a different story, and the film-maker a different one. It is a plethora of emotions culminating into a final mess, and as much I admire the craft, the less I care about its message.
However, I agree with your views that Danny Aiello should have won the Oscar. For me, he was the only bright spark in this otherwise doomed experiment. He stands out in every scene he is featured and the raw emotions that materialize on his face are the only ones that seem to be worthy of any empathy.
Do The Right Thing is a noble experiment gone very wrong and although Lee’s intentions were pure, I have to admit, I would have smashed that radio of Radio Raheem myself if I had the chance. That song gets on the nerves and that is the absolute truth, Ruth.
Rating : 4.2 / 10
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