Peter Farrelly solved racism!
It’s the early-60’s in New York City and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), or as he calls himself, Tony Lip, is just trying to get by. He’s got a job as a bouncer, where he beats the holy hell out of anyone who starts any trouble; he’s got a lovely wife (Linda Cardellini) and kids, who he’s trying very hard for to keep a roof over their heads; and whenever he’s not doing either of these, he’s working odd-jobs where he’s either takin’ care of some business, or out-eating neighbors for money. But his whole life changes when he gets word that Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a classical music pianist, is going on a tour of the dirty and deep South and needs a driver. He takes the job on the promise that it’ll be worth the money and that he may actually learn a thing or two about the rest of the world. Which he does, but then again, so does Dr. Shirley and the two become close friends that would continue on for the rest of their lives.
Green Book is another one of those Oscar-ready movies tackling racism that are clearly meant to make white folks feel happy for themselves for not being as bad as their elders were in those times. Yet however, at the same time, it still feels phony because it also gives white people the same notion that had they lived at that time, they wouldn’t have been that racist or even awful to another person of another race. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to know and understand these movies as well-intentioned, yet by the same token, total and complete bulls**t.
Green Book is, somehow, the exception to the rule, where it’s obviously that a lot of it is making white people feel better about themselves and their own racist-tendencies, yet still charming, lovely, and enjoyable despite itself. It never feels like a movie that’s trying to surprise you with its formula, nor is it really trying to make a huge message about race that we haven’t already seen/heard before – it’s simply trying to tell us a story of a friendship between two polar opposites. And honestly, when those polar opposites are played by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, you really can’t go wrong.
Or can you?
Nope, just kidding, because Green Book does most things right. Surprisingly enough, a movie as thoughtful and as tenderly directed as this, was done by Peter Farrelly, who seems to be making a drastic jump from toilet-humor and bros being bros, to small, character-driven stories dealing with race and change in America. And for the step he’s taking, Farrelly does well; he finds just the right amount of humor to balance out the heart, as well as the right amount of drama to balance out all of the happiness. It’s a crowd-pleaser in the sense that it’s meant to make you happy, sad, laugh, and possibly even tear-up. Basically, it’s like any other movie, ever made before.
But what really separates Green Book from everything else is that it has Ali and Mortensen working with one another and it’s a true sight to see. Sure, the argument could be made that we’d want to see these two in something far more challenging, as we know that they can do it, but as it stands, they make Green Book worth watching because of their insanely lovely chemistry. Just watching the two very different personalities of Mortensen’s rough, dirty, sort of brawny Tony, and the calm, laid-back, reserved, and sophisticated nature of Ali’s, is truly a sight to see, especially whenever it’s just them sitting in the car, eating, talking about life, love, racism, culture, and most importantly, what it’s like to be them in America.
It’s not the movie that’s going to change the world or even really shake things up, but for two-hours, it does what it has to do and reminds you that racism is bad.
Now, any questions?
Consensus: No doubt a formulaic, somewhat unsurprising affair, Green Book doesn’t shake the foundation of the world in which we live, but is thankfully sweet, kind-hearted, and acted superbly by its leads that it all then makes up for its lack of true power in its nature.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Universal Pictures