This film looks at life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn on a hot summer Sunday. As he does everyday, Sal Fragione opens the pizza parlor he's owned for 25 years. The neighborhood has changed considerably in the time he's been there and is now composed primarily of African-Americans and Hispanics. His son Pino hates it there and would like nothing better than to relocate the eatery to their own neighborhood. For Sal however, the restaurant represents something that is part of his life and sees it as a part of the community. What begins as a simple complaint by one of his customers, Buggin Out - who wonders why he has only pictures of famous Italian-Americans on the wall when most of his customers are black - eventually disintegrates into violence as frustration seemingly brings out the worst in everyone. Written by
"Do the Right Thing" is a film from 1989 directed and written by Spike Lee who also stars in the movie. The rest of the cast includes Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro.
The story takes place in the city of New York City, New York in the area of Brooklyn within the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. It is on one of the hottest days in the summer. The story follows the adventures of a young African-American man named Mookie who lives with his sister and works as a delivery man for a middle-aged American-Italian man named Sal who owns the local pizza parlor, "Sal's Famous Pizzeria."
Mookie's heart is not into his job at all, and doesn't take it very seriously and often slacks off from it much to Sal's dislike. Mookie also has a three-year old son with his girlfriend Tina, but is too scared to marry her, move in together, and settle down.
"Sal's Famous Pizzeria" has been standing proudly in the neighborhood for twenty-five years. Sal, and his two sons Pino and Vito are few of the only white men who work in the area which is predominantly African-American. The neighborhood was originally a largely Italian-American neighborhood until the 1960's during the civil rights movement when black people moved into the neighborhood, which caused many of the local Italians to move out.
Sal's oldest son Pino, is a huge racist and hates having to work in a black neighborhood. Pino makes it very clear that he doesn't enjoy his job and that he hates black people. Sal's other son, Vito is more open toward blacks and just the opposite of Pino, and has a good friendship with Mookie.
One of Sal's regular customers, "Buggin' Out" notices that Sal's wall of fame in the restaurant only has pictures of Italians. He asks Sal why there are no black people on the wall, and Sal tells them that this is his place, and Italian people are to be all the wall only. Buggin' Out argues that because mostly black people spend their money in there that they do have some say over the creative control of the business. This idea does not go over too well with Sal, and he kicks Buggin' Out to the streets. Buggin' Out then plans to organize a boycott of Sal's pizzeria and goes on a quest to find those who will join him.
There are other little story lines and characters within the film, but the one I described above is the main plot of the story.
It's an interesting, thought provoking film that I think everyone should see. It's a little disturbing and not a feel good movie. It's also just a tiny bit dated (but the 80's theme is all apart of the appeal in my view) the film is kinda cheesy in some parts too, but again, it is apart of the appeal of the movie. There's also some reverse racism that goes on that is intended to be comical to black audiences, but I found it to be offensive and mean.
On that note, in many of Spike Lee's movies he often has his Italian characters as either being racist bullies that the audience are suppose to hate, or unintelligent people who the audience is suppose to laugh at, and we see both of that in the characters of Pino and Vito.
There are honestly no classic cinema good guys in this film. (which is not exactly a bad thing since it makes the film more realistic.) Not even the main character Mookie is someone I would call a hero. He doesn't set a very good example for the audience. He's a complete slacker when it comes to his job, and only cares about getting paid, and yet he doesn't do much to earn the money.
Spike Lee presents a very realistic and honest look at culture clashes that sadly exist in the United States of America. Now while it's true that I personally haven't been involved with too many race conflicts, thank goodness...all one has to do is observe history, read a newspaper or watch the news to see the realism in "Do the Right Thing" that is just as alive now that it was in 1989.
The thing about this film is that almost no one is nice. Almost everyone is a very rude jerk with no manners. Some might think this movie stereotypes New Yorkers, but there were mostly New York actors in it. I can see why NYC has the rep that it does (at least among some of the people I know) for it's rudeness, and this movie does not deny it. In most cases, anytime a person is rude to another person, that person will often react by also being ruder, and that happens often in this film, and so much violence and drama could have been avoided in this picture if one person could have turned the other cheek, swallowed their pride, been polite and unselfish. I think the movie is very realistically because in real life, the exact same thing I said above applies to everyday violent human events.
The title "Do the Right Thing" is interesting...because no one does the right thing.
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