Green Book review
Remember the Farrelly brothers? Yeah, that’s a name I haven't heard in a little while. They were previously remembered to making a lot of farce comedies like Dumb and Dumber,There's Something About Mary, and The Three Stooges. That makes it even more fascinating that one of them, Peter Farrelly is now directing a "dramedy" about race relations and friendship. The jarring shift in tone relates to the fact that the pair had been having trouble finding that same comedic fire from before. Movies like Hall Pass, The Three Stooges and Dumb and Dumber To were not hit movies with critics or at the box office. It makes sense that at least one of them would want to try something different.
The good news is that even with a different kind of movie, it's still possible for a filmmaker to follow similar themes. In the case of Peter Farrelly, the main character is still a blue-collar man who goes on a journey. I think that's why he and his brother's movies before used to appeal to a mainstream audience; it was easier to relate to someone who was on a similar class level. So let's see what happens in Green Book, again a Farrelly production.
In the early sixties, rough bouncer Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) is out of work when the nightclub he works at is closed for renovations. His experience leads him to be interviewed by a "Doctor Don Shirley". What Tony discovers is that Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) is a musician who needs a driver to escort him for a concert tour in the Deep South. Though there is clear difference in class and race, Tony is hired based on his recommendation and that he would be a needed help within the segregated area.
During the car ride, it's made clear that the two come from different worlds. Tony is unrefined, a slob and is proud of his rough Italian heritage while Don is classy, well educated and is proud of his classical training. Over time, Tony is impressed with Don's piano playing comparing him to Liberace and Don see's the humanity within Tony. The further they go south, the more Tony understands the unfair nature of segregation and Don is forced to see just how different his world is compared to African-Americans in the poorer areas. Though the two become friends, Tony is not only concerned he won't be home for his family on Christmas Eve, but that perhaps he'd been unfair in the past.
I guess it shouldn’t matter where Green Book came from; it may be one of my favorite movies of 2018. A lot of people might see it as that because it's addressing this issue. Truth to be told, that's not what this movies does well in. In fact, I see this movie as a class separation story that works thanks to its script and actors. The best movie I can connect this to is Driving Miss Daisy. That movie also addressed race relations in the Deep South, but was a story about friendship first. Green Book is also like that.
The biggest difference is that along with two men, the plot has to two stuck in the car as they go to each town. Thankfully, the script allows for fun moments without seemingly too comedic. It's likely how the dialogue would have gone down with me if I was thrown into this situation. It's more natural then a lot of stories that probably would have skipped to the race relations' stuff.
The winning combination is the two leads Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. They both had challenging roles as they could have fallen into the stereotype trap. But thanks to a good script, both actors embrace their personas and make each of their characters more human by making them both susceptible to each others suggestions. This isn't a story where everything is changed, but that's also the idea. Its about tolerance rather then acceptance. Both are clear about each others differences, but still find ways to become friends. It's never boring and even leads into jokes that I found funnier then a lot of regular comedies. It's just a nice film overall.
I'll give this five green books out of five. I still have more award movies to watch, but I can see this playing over well during the holiday season. This is a kind of movie that isn't made too often, but need more of. Just movies that feel like pleasant conversations you'd have with any friend. This is a definite recommendation.