Green Book

Directed by Peter Farrelly who along with his brother Bobby is best known for such comedic films as 1994’s Dumb and Dumber and 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, Green Book is a heart-warming comedic drama about an unusual road trip through the South in the 1960s with a famous black musician and a rough Italian-American driver. Inspired by a true story, ill-mannered tough guy Tony ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga, played by two-time Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen, is a Manhattan bouncer looking for a job and eventually lands a job as a driver for the sophisticated and proper African American jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley, played by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. Despite their mutual misgivings mostly as a result of their ethnic differences, Shirley is told that the strong-willed Tony would probably be best suited for a journey through the extremely hostile South for black men like himself. Tony’s wife Dolores, played by Emmy nominee Linda Cardellini, encourages her hesitant husband to take the job. At first, both men really do not understand each other at least from a cultural and ethnic perspective, with Tony feeling that Shirley is really not black enough according to the day’s stereotypes. In almost a role reversal, at least according to the prejudices at the time, Shirley objects to the profane and often irreverent mannerisms of Tony who has never really left his comfort zone of New York City. Most of the road trip is smooth sailing with the exception of several incidents in which a few racist Southerners verbally and physically attack Shirley simply due to the color of his skin. Ironically, Shirley who is an extremely talented classically-trained pianist with impeccable manners is often barred from patronizing the same clubs and other venues where he is performing as they venture deeper and deeper into the Jim Crow South. Although at times the film glosses over the much more inhumane treatment that Shirley would likely have experienced as a black man in the South, the story evolves into a bittersweet buddy comedy in which Tony and Shirley look past their differences and develop a friendship that would last a lifetime. Emphasizing the racial underpinnings of the movie, the title itself refers to the actual travel guide known as the Green Book that directed black motorists to the black friendly establishments in the Deep South. In a rather jarring moment for Tony, he seems confused by receiving this book because he did not know that its existence was required for someone as respected as Shirley just because he is black. Overall, I found it to be an endearing and entertaining buddy road trip film that largely promotes interracial harmony evolving over an extended trip between two different men from two very different backgrounds. Furthermore, the movie works so beautifully as a result of the terrific chemistry between such acclaimed actors as Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.

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