One of the more controversial films in the Best Picture lineup, this is Green Book. The feature has been maligned for not completely depicting the events that took place in the real life story. But did it still make for a good film? First, a plot synopsis.
Peter Farrelly’s work is inspired by true events of a working class Italian-American bouncer, Tony Lip Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), who becomes the driver for world renowned African-American pianist and composer, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). The nightclub Tony works at closes for two months for renovations, placing him in need of work. Don, meanwhile, lives in a luxurious apartment above Carnegie Hall. He is set to venture out on a nationwide tour for which he needs to find a driver who will also act as his personal assistant. One thing leads to the next, and we find Tony being interviewed for the job. This is particularly striking as we see Tony throw away drinking glasses that two black repairmen used when they visited his home a scene or two prior.
Our story takes place during the 1960s and so does Don’s tour, which includes several stops in the Deep South during segregation. The film’s namesake comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide utilized to road trip through the country at this time. The whole experience is new for Tony, a less-refined, loose cannon who probably has not experienced racism firsthand. The two men in our story are polar opposites and their personalities clash rather often at the beginning of their venture. However, they begin to see one another’s perspective and grow to appreciate each other.
Controversy aside, I enjoyed Green Book, which shared some similarities with the 1989 classic Driving Miss Daisy. I particularly liked the chemistry between Ali and Mortensen as well as how they fed off of each other. I’m also a music guy, which means I loved the musical themes of the film. As far as subject matter, there was a nice balance of comedy amidst the more serious, racial undertones. Which I think the film does an “okay” job in addressing. Green Book is definitely one to see.
My Grade: A