A world-class African American pianist hires an Italian-American bouncer as his driver for protection as he tours the deep South in 1962.
Two words: Mahershala Ali. A clear standout from the moment he appears on screen. Taking on the polished jazz pianist Dr Don Shirley, his performance is a complete 360 from his most recent victory in Moonlight, displaying a wide-range and well diverse skill set that is surprisingly impeccable. His subtle finger movements and tone adds a unique vibrancy to the character that is truly enjoyable. In the same fashion, Viggo Mortensen, as his short-tempered driver Tony Lip, also delivers a brilliant performance by holding a balanced layer of vitality and humor. It is not long before we become comfortable and fully invested with these characters and embark on the journey, and what a journey it is.
Green book is a feel-good road trip movie that never gets boring. The story itself is interesting for as we follow an extremely talented Black man traveling through the rural South with a White man as his “bodyguard” and chauffeur. The most fascinating aspect of this story is the composition. The roles are reversed in a time period where you would expect the opposite. Don is the rich man with high standards. He calls the orders and Tony follows them, even if he doesn’t want to because he knows the money is worth it. Together, they’ve accepted that there will be bumps along the road, but Tony obtains something that may minimize the difficulty of this trip, the green book. A guide designed to give the Negro traveler information that will prevent him from running into dangerous situations. With this book, and Tony’s strong defense, they tour the South, developing an unexpected bond that is ultimately a crowd-pleaser.
Comparatively, this film is not violent nor graphic for a movie based on racism. The rewarding part is that is does not have to be. Yes, we do experience several racial slurs, discrimination, and slight beatings, but that is not the focus of the film. The focus is that no matter the race, class, or status, every person is different, and they should be treated as such even if they are hundreds of miles away from home. Without spoiling, there is a scene in this film where the car breaks down and they are left with a view. Exhausted from the brutal constant traveling, Don steps out for some fresh air and sees the view for himself, and he is stunned, as so was I. It is a scene that can begin a never-ending conversation, and it was perfect cinematography, as well as emotional. In contrast, there is one scene that I believe was unnecessary and rather disturbing, mainly because it served no purpose (once you see it, you'll know exactly what i'm talking about). As a tribute to the real Don Shirley, that scene was not effective.
All things considered, director Peter Farrelly created a classic masterpiece based on a true story in a manner so diverse and content that I did not even notice the two-hour run time. Presently, it seems as if more filmmakers are displaying stories that shut down all the nuisances and stereotypes, we religiously use today.
Keep it up.
That’s what films are for.