Green Book

November 21, 2018

in Movies

Film (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly
Screenplay by Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie

With Mahershala Ali (Dr. Don Shirley), Viggo Mortensen (Tony “Lip” Vallelonga), Linda Cardellini (Dolores)

 Viggo Mortensen as Tony

Viggo Mortensen as Tony “Lip” Vallelonga
Mahershala Ali as Dr. Don Shirley
in “Green Book”

Set in 1962 on a road trip through the South, a wonderfully written and acted account of the relationship between African-American jazz pianist Don Shirley and his Italian-American driver.

In the winter of 1962, famed jazz pianist Don Shirley wants to make a tour to the Southern United States and hires Tony “Lip” Vallelonga as his driver and protector. The film tracks the course of this two month tour through the South and the evolution of the relationship between the two men. “Green Book” is the name of the guide given to Vallelonga before the trip which identifies hotels which will agree to house African-Americans.

What a terrifically written and acted film this is.

Viggo Mortensen is quite out of this world as the driver-protector. He is so good that there is virtually no crack in his embodiment of this character. It is difficult to imagine the same guy playing Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a real testament to Mortensen’s versatility.

Mahershala Ali, who sealed his reputation in Moonlight (2016) and Hidden Figures (2016), is superb here as Don Shirley. Bearing a dignified and austere stance at first, his character’s jazz side gradually begins to emerge. As his flexibility emerges, the relationship between Shirley and Vallelonga develops.

In the supporting role of Vallelonga’s wife, Dolores, Linda Cardellini makes the apron-wearing mistress of the household take on a magnetic quality that adds an unexpectedly romantic dimension to the story.

The writing is really beautifully done overall.

The film opens with Vallelonga throwing out some drinking glasses that African-American workmen who have come to his house have used. It’s a potent start.

Realistically, one might think that, given this initial prejudice, some of his subsequent encounters with Shirley might have been a bit more difficult they appear. Yet, in pretty short order, cinematic narrative magic enables Vallelonga to be a trusted defender of Shirley’s interests. Portrayal of a bit more of a resistant evolution might have been more believable. In any case, the result is not offensive, just a bit quicker and easier than might be expected.

A contrast between two different types of encounters with police who stop Shirley’s car during the trip makes for a poignant turn.

Oddly, this film, set at Christmas – the road trip is meant to end on Christmas eve and get Vallelonga home to his family in time – falls within the Christmas movie genre. As a result, it takes on a bit more of a hokey quality than it might have otherwise. Nonetheless, the merging of the theme of coming to terms with racism and the celebrating of Christmas packs an interesting punch. Despite the obvious rush to get the film into the Christmas market, the somewhat unexpected conjunction of themes really works.

Overall, a moving and beautifully acted film.

– BADMan

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