Mario's Movie Musings: Green Book

Green Book tells the story of Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class African-American pianist embarking on a tour of the Deep South in 1962, accompanied by Tony Lip, an Italian-American tough guy from the Bronx, played by Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen respectively.

The title is referencing the actual Green Book; the travel guide of Jim Crow South for African-Americans, letting them know where to eat and sleep without getting into trouble. Green Book goes through the trials and tribulations of two men from very different backgrounds having to come together; Shirley needing a driver through the Deep South, and Lip needing a job after the club he works for is closed down for repairs. Lip has a family to provide for, but the job takes him away from them for an extended period of time, which has Lip’s wife demanding he write her letters whenever he can, with some humorous results later on in the film.

As with all stories of people coming together from different backgrounds, there is obvious friction between the two main character: Lip’s brash attitude and Shirley’s proper demeanor lead to a few misunderstandings right off the bat. But their time together brings the men closer together, as Lip learns more about Shirley and feels a sense of responsibility for him beyond the fact that he’s getting paid, while Shirley sees Lip as someone who can be better than he currently is (there’s a funny bit where Shirley makes Lip drive back to pick up some trash he threw out the window).

Green Book the perfect blend of drama and comedy, with Lip and Shirley playing off each other’s character quirks. Comedic moments often lead to very tense dramatic moments, like Lip poking fun at Shirley’s demeanor eventually leading to a great monologue from Ali that is sure to be in the highlight reels for Oscar season. In fact, it’s safe to say both Mortensen and Ali are a lock for Best Actor and Best Supporting Oscar nominations, and quite honestly, both deserve it for how they are both able to completely transform themselves for whatever role they’re in.

When the credits rolled, I came upon a huge twist; Peter Farrelly directed it. Yes, Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers, who brought us Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Stuck on You. But this film delves deeper into more serious situations than the three flicks I mentioned, such as showing the true racism of Jim Crow South (Shirley, despite being the guest of honor, is not allowed to use the same facilities as the people paying him to perform), and the genuine prejudices that we all have.

Green Book releases on November 21st, just in time for the holiday season, so if you can make your way to a theater to see it, I highly recommend doing so. This movie is a sure fire lock for some awards, and is an enjoyable time with family and friends.