In 1962, Dr. Don Shirley, an African American world class pianist about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South, hires Italian bouncer Tony Vallelonga to serve as his driver and bodyguard on the trip. The movie Green Book follows what comes next, a true story of two men, their differences, and the mutual respect that grows.
Despite an underwhelming box office performance, Green Book has come out as an award season front runner. Winning the Golden Globe awards for Best Film: Musical or Comedy and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali, the film is unsurprisingly on its way to Oscar nominations. Controversies have crowded the film’s highway to success though. From inappropriate racial slurs during promotion to the uncovering of racist tweets to complaints from Shirley’s real life family, the film’s release has had its share of issues. I acknowledge these controversies. I also acknowledge the fact that Green Book, put simply, is a film made by white people for white people. It’s simply the audience. It’s a movie that would have won every Oscar a decade or two ago. It’s a movie made to let white audiences feel better about racial circumstances. I get that, because it’s the truth.
But there’s a certain charm to Green Book that also can’t be ignored. This can be fully credited to the great performances from its two actors, Viggo Mortenson as Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Shirley. Ali in particular needlessly proves his versatility as an actor, grasping the role of Shirley with full forged skill and class. He deserves the awards. The pair has this amazing chemistry that just bounces back and forth with such admirable ease. I kind of enjoyed the stereotypical Italian, New York characterization of Vallelonga, and Mortenson does a nice job owning his character’s development. The scenes between the two actors pan out with wonderful fluidity, and it’s the whole reason the movie actually works.
Green Book is an enjoyable watch. I appreciated the two men dealing with their prejudices and issues in different ways, cultivating a unique relationship together. It’s all together heartwarming. The plot did feel a bit see-sawish, for lack of a better word, at times, with one setback followed by another happy moment. There was one scene involving a police officer towards the end that was so ridiculously unnecessary and obviously put in to appease the target audience. I do recommend Green Book though. While it’s not without its shortcomings, the film has smart performances from its two main actors, who lead the story seamlessly in their journey together. It left me with a smile on my face, and I hope others experience that too.
ALL IN ALL: Green Book may seem outdated, but great performances and chemistry between its two leads fuels its central warmth and appeal.
On the Ticket Stub Love scale, I give Green Book 3.5 out of 5 ticket stubs
Director: Peter Farrelly
Cast: Viggo Mortenson, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardinelli
Run time: 2 hr 10 min, PG-13