A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Spike Lee
Written By: Spike Lee
Produced By: Spike Lee
Starring: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Spike Lee
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Controversial but important in so many ways, Spike Lee’s impeccable third full length feature is stark in intention, resilient in expression and flawless in execution. A homegrown tale of race, culture, age, upbringing and everything in between, Do The Right Thing is a supremely powerful embodiment of societal issues of yesteryear that sadly have continued to remain relevant to this day.
A film that thrives on coexisting but contrasting elements and how certain factors come to play in particular contexts, the emotions, thoughts and ideas taken from the overall experience make Do The Right Thing a prime representation of everything we are still heatedly debating in 2016 and thus, a tragically timely picture.
Culture, culture everywhere!
The word culture is apt for such a film in that it encompasses everything within Do The Right Thing. A marvellous representation of numerous cultures that inhabit the region of late 80’s Brooklyn, New York in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section, the film observes the symbiosis of various individuals and how they interact day to day.
From remarks on complexion to hair colour, where one resides to one’s musical taste; the presence of imminent and ominous conflict can be felt pulsating the undercurrent of the picture for the most part.
On the hottest day of the year, Do The Right Thing follows the interactions between these individuals and the various conflicts that ensue and, most notably, escalate.
It’s the arrogance, temper and intolerance of these characters that serve as the driving force for the conflict, and when observing these prejudices in certain contexts, something as little as the refusal of how much free cheese one puts on his slice of pizza stands for so much.
In what feels like the position of the mediator of the picture, Spike Lee’s Mookie navigates his way through the sweltering heat of the afternoon delivering pizza, expressing his own concerns along the way as he converses with numerous associates from differing cultures.
A central theme that only reveals itself later in the picture but can be felt from a very early stage is that of violence. The way in which violence is handled in Do the Right Thing turns the perceptions of an audience right back around, forcing them to rethink where their sympathies truly lie.
What Do The Right Thing expresses is depending on the context, we are all capable of becoming a violent monster in one way or another, yet what seems right in one man’s eyes may be the polar opposite to another.
Contrasting beliefs, ideals and opinions manifest themselves in front of the hellishly exhausting temperatures of the Brooklyn backdrop, resulting in an expression of the reasons for violence, the expression of violence in action and (hopefully) the solution to violence.
The latter is turned onto the viewer as a call to action; a call to not do something, but, as the title suggests, the right thing.
Seeing the world through the perspective of various characters is one of the picture’s greatest strengths. It’s an important element to the story and overarching message of the film for many reasons, mostly as it serves as a gateway into their personality and beliefs, which in turn justify their actions, according to them that is.
Whether it be frustration of Danny Aiello’s Salvatore Fragione as he sees the neighbourhood surrounding his personally owned pizza shop of 25 years slowly become dominated by African Americans and Hispanics, or the apparent bigotry observed through the eyes of Giancarlo Esposito’s Buggin’ Around as he eats a slice of Fragione’s pizza and notices the lack of “Brothers” on his wall of fame, perspective plays an enormous part within the film, altering our perceptions in a masterfully manipulative way.
Do The Right Thing is not only Spike Lee’s definitive work and arguable magnum opus, it’s the ironic amalgamation of societal issues about race and prejudice that still remain fully unresolved some 26 years later. It can be used as a commentary on both 80’s America and contemporary America depending on the perspective you choose as the viewer.
Although it may have been labelled as a controversial picture back in 1989 and since then it would seem that a significant shift in the direction of change and unity has occurred, Do The Right Thing still offers a smattering a relevant thought-provoking messages for a modern audience.
It’s not only worth your time for sheer entertainment value, it’s an important piece of cinema that needs to be seen and appreciated.