Review: Green Book

Who’d have thought that the director of Dumb and Dumber would bring us the best movie of 2018? With two great performances from Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book is based on the true story of a working-class New York Italian bouncer (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a classically trained black pianist (Ali) on a tour through the Jim Crow South. It’s the best road trip flick in ages as it explores race and class through an unexpected friendship. And it is by turns sad and funny and sweet and horrifying. It’s a must see!

The time is 1962. And as is made clear in the first act, racism is not just a problem in the South. But when Tony Lip is offered a good paying job driving (and protecting) Dr. Don Shirley around the South, he’s willing to put aside his prejudices for a pay check. Both men have assumptions of the other and slowly through the film, they each come to realize that they were wrong. Tony may have been a casual racist back home, but when he sees it directed at the man he has grown to respect and even like, it affects him. And some of it is truly vile. Dr. Shirley has his own classist blinders to lose over the course of the tour, too. And by the end they are friends, and remained close until their deaths.

There are a lot of obvious comparisons to Driving Miss Daisy, but this is no knock-off. Peter Farrelly brings this heart-warming tale to life with a deft understanding of character and place and time. And both Ali and Mortensen demonstrate their considerable talents to the fullest. I can’t say enough about how good this film is! I saw it at The Middleburg Film Festival and I’ll definitely see it again in the local theater when it arrives just in time for Thanksgiving. You should, too!

Mainstream Chick’s take: What can I say? I absolutely loved this movie! I know it’s still early, but Green Book is now my leading pick for Oscar gold, overtaking A Star Is Born atop my admittedly subjective list of best films (so far) of 2018. It has everything: a fascinating story inspired by a true friendship; a crazy good dynamic between two phenomenal lead actors, Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight); humor, heart, relevancy and poignancy; great music; and solid direction by Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary). Green Book is a roadtrip movie with shades of Driving Miss Daisy, The Bodyguard, My Fair Lady, and so much more. It’s about a street-smart, blunt-talking Italian-American bouncer Frank Anthony Vallelonga, aka Tony Lip (Mortensen) who is hired to drive and protect a well-educated, dignified world-class black pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) as he embarks on an eight-week concert tour into the Deep South in 1962, when appalling segregation laws were still in effect. At the time, black travelers relied on a guide called the Negro Motorist Green-Book to steer them to “safe” places to stay, eat and recreate. Both men enter the journey with their own set of assumptions and prejudices about race, class and society. By the end, the two men are forever changed, and forever friends. The film comes out at Thanksgiving. Be thankful for that – and go see it! (4/4 stars)

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