Movie review: Green Book
Green Book— Running Time: 2:10 — Rating: R
“Green Book” may well be the finest movie of this year. It is beautifully made by everyone connected with it and audiences love the rare blend of tragedy and comedy, each delivered in sophisticated ways.
The explosive opening scene in New York’s Copacabana establishes Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as a hot-tempered man who refuses to be insulted. After a brutal fight, he goes home to his wife and two children in the Bronx where he is a calm, loving husband and father. This is a good man whose temper ignites only in the face of injustice.
Tony gets a job as driver for Afro-American classical pianist Dr. Doc Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is about to embark on a two-month concert tour from New York through the Midwest and the South to a final concert in Atlanta. When he goes for the job interview, Tony finds the renowned Dr. Shirley in an elegant outfit, seated on a throne, and living in absolute luxury above Carnegie Hall. The two team up for the trip — Tony and Doc.
The renowned pianist is greeted with standing ovations wherever he plays but when he turns southward, those ovations are accompanied by clear instructions as to where he can eat and sleep. This is a true story that unfolded in 1962 and it’s a shock.
Tony drives Doc to all his concerts and becomes more involved as they face racial blocks that grow more ugly as they move southward where signs on inns and hotels read “No Colored.” In the ones labelled “Colored,” the beds, rooms and bathrooms are filthy.
From that point forward, we watch the subtle deepening of the relationship between the two men as Tony realizes his boss is exploring the depth of racial injustice on his concert tour. Tony himself is the white man outraged by the injustice of what he now realizes he had never noticed before. The bond between the two grows deeper as they face the challenges of the deep South.
As all this unfolds, we begin to understand the subtle gift given us by director, writers and actors who are re-creating a piece of history in pure art form. There are no slip-ups anywhere as everyone working on the film seems to understand the blend of two strong men facing the tragedy of racism. Tony and Doc begin to help each other in new ways that are deeply moving for the audience. The cultural changes wrap the two in trust without changing their strong beliefs about themselves.
Special credit goes to director Peter Farrelly and actor Linda Cardellini who plays Tony’s wife. Mortensen and Ali are subtle and superb as Tony and Doc. They build an unusual friendship rooted in respect and trust though each retains his essential self even when challenged by the other. If you miss this one you will miss a movie where all its creators have worked together to make a genuine work of art.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis