Green Book is a comedy-drama film following the true story of Tony (Lip) Vallelonga (a name you might recognise, an actor later in his life starring in The Sopranos, but in this is played by Viggo Mortensen, Lord of The Rings) as he is employed as a driver and bodyguard for musician Doctor Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight) in the deep south of 1960s America.
A little bit of background. At this point in American history, segregation had not been abolished, so travelling into the South was very dangerous for black people. The Green Book, was a motorist guide for travelling through segregated America providing information on segregated areas where black people could sleep and eat. This part of the film is not shied away from, the further into the South they go, the more problems the two characters run into. The Director, (Peter Farrelly, one half of the Dumb and Dumber directorial team) is careful in his depiction of this, and doesn’t gloss over much of the problems that were faced by black people travelling in the South in this era.
My problem with this depiction is that it doesn’t show the real fear that Shirley, and many others of this time, and even today, have travelling in the South. At every point, Shirley is calm and dignified, which is incredible and commendable, but it felt like there wasn’t any fear or concern regarding this trip. The problems they run into could be seen a mile away, and were swept under the rug. I think that demonstrating more of the fear, would have really punched through the real-life implications today of the American South.
The best part of the film by far are Mortensen and Ali’s performances. With Mortensen the stereotypical New York Italian and Ali the calm dignified and successful man. The chemistry is off the hooks, these two actors are truly incredible to watch together and each have their own stunning performances. With Shirley moulding Vallelonga into a better citizen, and changing his racial attitudes, and Vallelonga teaching Shirley how to eat chicken off the bone and encouraging him to loosen up, it’s played beautifully and you can believe the bond that these two real life men must have had together.
The film is shot beautifully as most of it takes place on the roads of the American South, the music is incredible, the acting of the secondary characters is wonderful. It’s a moving film, with comedic moments, some truly touching scenes, and a very slight commentary on homosexual attraction and alcoholism as well.
Buddy-comedy, with a road trip, some social history, and fish-out of water for both men, it’s got something for everyone. I really enjoyed this film, I have next to no complaints (you read the only one before). This film is pure heart and is really charming and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Oscar contender movies.