This past week my pal and I went to the movies again. We were supposed to see Green Book on two prior occasions but had to defer due to scheduling conflicts. We finally viewed this acclaimed production, and it was worth it. With Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali headlining the cast, the ride was smooth and witty. Green Book is a three-time Globe winner and is currently nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Mortensen) and Best Supporting Actor (Ali). The film also holds a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, hovering at around 80 percent. With all these accolades you expected the picture to deliver the goods, and it did.
Dr Don Shirley is a black savant with mad piano skills. He is on the lookout for a driver, and not just any chauffeur, but someone who will launder his suits, be his bodyguard, get his meals etc. Tony Lip (Mortensen) is a bruiser from the local pub who is out of a job and needs one badly. When he hears of Dr Shirley’s opening, he is intrigued. There is a scene earlier when he shows his dislike for people of colour. The same aversion comes up as he realises that Don is black. Ultimately, the good pay convinces him to give it a go. He then accompanies Don in the Deep South as he does his musical tour.
Throughout the picture, there is racial tension, lighter moments and darker ones. Don faces a lot of adversity during his spell, and Lip is often caught in between. The contrast between the mild-mannered Shirley and Lip is obvious. While Tony smokes his cigarettes and hangs out with the crowd, Shirley prefers to stay in his room and get drunk on expensive wine. While Tony likes to speak his mind, the doctor prefers peace and quiet. They are polar opposites, even in their diet. Tony couldn’t profile Don, as he doesn’t dig soul food and is not your typical black guy.
The picture is quite witty, mainly through Don and Tony’s banter but also with their interactions with others. Though set in the 1960’s, the highlighted issues are still somewhat relevant to this day. During the early 60s, segregation was still in place. Nowadays, racial issues are still a fact in the US; the news reports on police malfeasance against blacks are Exhibit A. We also get a mixture of reactions from Tony: apathy, violence against Don’s oppressors, and disdain towards Don himself. They both ran to, and away from, trouble.
I did not realise that this movie was based on a true story, not until the credits’ scene. The film highlights everything beautiful between two men of varied backgrounds. When two parties work towards achieving a goal, anything is possible. This was one of the lighter productions I’ve seen this year, alongside Instant Family. Tony’s insatiable appetite generated a lot of humour. He pretty much munches on something for most of the runtime. He even introduces KFC to his boss, and this inspires an awkward but riotous encounter.
I concur that the high praise and box office success were well deserved. You could see why the movie continues to entice for months, having been released in November of last year. Green Book is such a fun picture that breezes by. Nick and I were walking around the mall when he said ‘Mahershala Ali’. He was referring to the moving banner that announced Battle Angel. ‘He’s everywhere,’ I told him. I reminded him that we also saw him in Spiderverse. ‘He’s the uncle,’ I told him in response to his query. Oscars win or not, there is no doubt that these movies wouldn’t be the same without Ali. Goodo.