Written by Wayne Townsend
The title of this film Green Book is adopted from a travel guide The Negro Motorist Green Book written in the 1930s by Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green. This book was written to give African- Americans a list of places they could stay when traveling in the south as segregation was the status quo during the 20th century south in the United States. It tells the true story of Don Shirley, a classically trained African-American pianist that volunteered to travel into the deep south in 1962 in an effort changed the minds of well-established racist views prevalent at the time. At the suggestion of his record label, Shirley, portraited by Academy Award winner, Mahershala Ali, hired Copacabana bouncer, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen to drive and protect Shirley. What ensues is a classic “buddy road trip picture” were two people from different ethnic backgrounds clash, then find common ground, and ultimately form a friendship. This is a tried and true Hollywood formula that has worked since the pairings of Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, Prior & Wilder. Director Peter Farrelly, famous for Dumber & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself, and Irene, lends his comedic flair to the serious subject of institutional racism and handles it deftly. Ali brings to life the musician who was held in high regard during his career even though his name may not resonate with everyday fans of his musical genre. Ali’s portrayal of the conflicted Shirley as a man who was shunned by both races, whites due his skin color and blacks who resented his education and lack of compliance with the more fan-friendly black entertainers of his day, is subtle yet gripping. Mortensen is excellent as Vallelonga, who became an actor in his own right appearing in The Sopranos, Donnie Brasco, and Goodfellas. Mortensen as Vallelonga shows a man that comes to grips with his own beliefs regarding discrimination as he sees first hand just how bad blacks are treated in the south. The friendship that develops is enduring, and that’s due to the chemistry between these two amazing actors whose respect for the source material is evident. Green Book isn’t a moral tale of the evils of racism; instead it is the story of two men who maintained their beliefs and personal integrity while facing said racism. Other films tackle the issue, but this is a good movie with a subtle reminder of a time in the country that we shouldn’t be proud of without harsh judgment. Green Book is one of those films that seems to slip under the radar only to be discovered sometime later, don’t wait. This is a delightful movie, 4 out of 5.