‘Green Book’ | Film Review

We’re at the time where I am trying to catch up a ton of movies before the end of the year might seem impossible, but there’s a ball of strength inside me that needs to be accomplished. With that, I’ve been hearing about Green Book for a while and it’s been on my radar after a mutual friend of mine loved it. Now that I checked out finally, find out what I have to say about this potential Oscar contender.

What’s the Story: Based on a true story circa 1962, New York Italian-American bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is hired to serve as the driver/ bodyguard to world-class African-American pianist Doctor Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on his concert tour in the Jim Crow South.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book (2018)

Green Book kind of came out of nowhere when it was announced it was being released in the fall. From the looks it, it reminded me of Driving Miss Daisy, if the main characters are both male and the races are switched. If that’s not enough, the National Board of Review named this as the best film of 2018, which is pretty high praise. And you know what, Green Book isn’t all that bad, and I somehow can’t understand why it’s not getting a lot of attention weeks after it came out.

After watching it, it still dons on me that Peter Farrelly actually directed this. The same guy who directed classic ’90s comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary directed a true drama that doesn’t rely on goofy humor? Gotta say he did a terrific job here, and it’s the best thing he directed in forever. Combining it with the screenplay written by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, and Nick Vallelonga (Tony’s son), it probably has some inaccuracies that most who know these men are willing to point out, but it’s an easy-going story to sit through.

But you go into Green Book wanting to get some powerhouse performances, especially from Mortensen and Ali, and they deliver. Mortensen is always an actor that always provides a memorable performance in nearly any genre. Tony seems like this tough bouncer who seems a bit prejudice at the start but comes to terms into helping Doc in any circumstance. And Ali’s Don is just classy, proper gentleman who wants to be very professional in a world where people still see color and not the talent. Ali, once again, proves he’s a great actor when given the right role.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book (2018)

Their roles are there to grow when this is all over, but you feel for them and understanding what makes them different for a journey that’s relatable to anyone. They have a lot of time on screen with each other and they provide some great chemistry when they’re having conversations while on the road, how to write the perfect letter to Tony’s wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini), or handling a tricky situation in those times.

The title “Green Book” comes from “The Negro Motorist Green Book”, where it has all the locations that allow colored people travel to certain motels and restaurants that would accept them. For someone who was born in the ’90s, it’s very difficult when you can’t go inside a place that doesn’t feel welcomed. At least it’s changed now.

The film has its comedic moments and I think they worked in its favor. A few of them were it a bit awkward with the time period and all, but there were some genuine laughs that I got, especially when it’s Don help Tony write letters or Don eating KFC for the first time while in Kentucky. So, props to Farrelly for having a good balance of comedy and drama without compromising the entire movie.

The central problem that I had with Green Book personally, is that I feel like it’s a story that I’m gonna remember since there has been a ton of movies set in this decade where people are still prejudiced against African-Americans. Though the problem of racism in today’s world is still half-and-half, depending on where you live, I can’t say this brought anything new that I haven’t seen before.

In the end, Green Book is one of the few movies of 2018 that will be described as a crowd-pleaser, and while some will throw this off some thinking it does not handle racism well-enough to sugarcoat the entire film. But I just see this as an interesting story about the bonding of two people from different backgrounds enjoying the company of one other. Is that so much to ask for? And thank God this isn’t a “white savior” type of movie. We are in a world where it is divided in many ways where problems are never solved, but Green Book is likely a good reason to feel better about ourselves.

Does this have a chance to get some Oscar love this season? Some probably won’t love the idea of this getting a Best Picture nomination, but I wouldn’t mind it. And the chances of Mortensen getting a nom after accidentally using the “n” word during promotion are slim. Overall, it would be nice to see recognition for a drama like this. This is a film that I can see myself re-watching later on.

Green Book probably won’t have a lasting impression, but it still elevates itself into becoming a well-made and satisfying buddy road dramedy with two great performances and chemistry from Mortensen and Ali.

Grade: B

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