A Comfort Food Bookend to 2018’s film selections.
I had a blast watching “Green Book.” That is due to the writing and how excellent the main actors are together. Directed by Peter Farrelly (“Dumb and Dumber”, “Kingpin”) and written by Nick Vallelonga, “Green Book” is about a surly yet lovable Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and wunderkind jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who happens to be African American. Set in the 1960s, Tony is an Italian bouncer hired to be a driver and bodyguard for Shirley, as he embarks on a tour in the American Deep South, likely to be filled to the brim with backwards thinking individuals that threaten the life of Shirley.
The film is named after a book called ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’ written by Victor Hugo Green, a book describing for safe places to stay and eat for African Americans in the Southern US.
What follows is a buddy/road trip film, and on the buddy aspects, “Green Book” is certainly one of the best of the genre I have ever seen. Mortensen and Ali are both absolutely wonderful in this film. I expected no less with Ali, and he unsurprisingly kills it. Mortensen though surprised me. Having embodied the lone wolf Geralt of Rivia-esque Aragorn in ‘The Lord of The Rings’ saga and the father in ‘The Road’, it came to surprise to be that he melted into the role of a schlub-ish and lovable Italian bruiser, in the vein of Batman’s Harvey Bullock, and I was taken aback by his versatility. Nonetheless, they have phenomenal chemistry that matches their wonderful skills, and they carry this movie, along with a great supporting cast including Linda Cardellini and a wealth of other likable actors.
It was a joy to hear these characters conversing, whether it be serious, or moments of levity that had me laughing out loud. This was perfectly suited for a road trip movie, as some of the best scenes between them took place in the car Tony and Don share. I really didn’t want those moments of discussion to end, but I really enjoyed the rest of the film as well.
The film certainly deals with subjects about race and social commentary, and the biggest criticism I have seen is that it doesn’t go deep enough with the issues, and just is too neat with White Savior elements.The two protagonists certainly had compelling stories to tell. A working class Italian man clashing with an upper class African American man had some interesting arguments. However, those complaints are definitely valid, as the film could’ve gone deeper with the subject matter.
However, it really didn’t hamper my enjoyment whatsoever. The core duo and their banter kept the movie going for me. The film had some wholesome moments to it that I enjoyed, and those sappy aspects may turn some people off, but I was immersed into the movie to a point where I had no problem with them.
Overall, the versatile actors and their interactions is by far worth the price of admission. While “Green Book,” plays it safe in some aspects and may turn off some, and my opinion may change upon a second viewing, I had a blast in the theater. I adored it, and highly recommend it.