REVIEW: Green Book
Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Green Book takes you on an unforgettable road trip.
PEx Reviewer: @forg
Rating: 7 / 10
Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
Photo Credit: Pioneer Films
An unemployed Italian-American bouncer Tony (Mortensen) is hired to drive and protect Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a renowned African American classical and jazz pianist on a concert tour to the Deep South. In the era of segregation and Jim Crom laws, they must rely on the Green Book — a travel guide to where African Americans are accepted for lodging and dining. Their personalities are polar opposites but a series of events as they embark on their trip will unite them as one.
Known for directing broad comedies (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary) Peter Farrelly takes on a whole different genre in Green Book as it tackles racism in the 60s. Farrelly generally did a good job with its gentle but affecting look of the racial tension of that era. The screenplay is co-written by Tony's son Nick Vallenoga who based the screenplay from interviews of his father and Shirley as well the letters his father wrote to his mother.
The film despite the heavy subject took a lighthearted approach and while it succeeded in pulling your heartstrings, it somehow lacks the depth as it didn't fully explore the ramifications of the racial segregation of that era. There's a sense of feeling that the movie could have done so much more with the complex topic but one couldn't blame if they played it low key and primarily focused on the friendship that gradually formed between Tony and Shirley. Mortensen and Ali have such great rapport and that clearly elevated this film to another level.
Mortensen was effective as the rough working-class man who was finally realizing he has an unconscious bias as Tony gets to know Shirley more and what he has gone through. He also effortlessly pulled off all the light scenes definitely targeted to make the viewer laugh. On the other hand, Oscar winner Ali knocks it out of the park once more. He was so effective in portraying Shirley's reserved personality who slowly lays his guard down as Tony wins his confidence. Ali shined the most in a key scene where Shirley lays it all out to Tony that he is miserably stuck in the middle between the racial divide where he does not know where he belongs and if anyone can truly accept him for what he is. Without Ali's passionate portrayal, the scene would have not been able to successfully immerse the viewer to Don Shirley's deep pain he has been harboring for years.
There have been criticisms that Green Book is not an authentic portrayal of what the African American truly experienced during the segregation era in and I somehow agree as the story is focused way too much on Tony's point of view and less of Shirley's plight. I admit that there are instances that movie can't help but fall on the "white savior" trope but for what it's worth, Green Book succeeds in telling a heartfelt story of unlikely friends that could overcome a divided and heavily polarized society.
Green Book is now showing today in cinemas nationwide. Discuss the movie here