Cinema Review: Green Book | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, March 31st, 2020  

Green Book

Studio: Universal Pictures
Directed by Peter Farrelly

Nov 26, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Tony (Viggo Mortenson) is a tough, tells-it-like-it-is Italian in the 1960s Bronx, which is to say, he’s rude, boorish, and ineloquent. Really, he’s good for two things: eating and muscle. The latter provides him a day job fending off rowdy patrons of the Copacabana, until it unexpectedly closes and leaves him in need of work. Tony’s also openly racist, which provides a complication when only one non-criminal entity calls for his services: the wealthy, sophisticated African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who has decided to tour the American south. After Tony’s wife is impressed by an early-morning call from Shirley, when he asks permission to take her husband away for weeks, Tony has the go-ahead to go on the road and protect Shirley from the realities of the American south.

You know the story -- the two men of opposite skin colors and tax brackets go on the road and strike up an unlikely friendship. No, Green Book won’t be honored for an unpredictable screenplay (you can almost hear detractors calling it a reverse Driving Miss Daisy) or groundbreaking achievements in filmmaking. But it doesn’t try to. Here, the filmmakers step out of the way, only to lay out a thin, straightforward story to showcase two of our finest actors at their peak. With Tony, Viggo Mortenson could have easily fallen into the blue collar Italian stereotype, but here it’s just a starting point. There’s a sense that Tony is who he is because he’s only surrounded by individuals that expect nothing more of him, and when he finds himself in the presence of social and artistic brilliance, even the proud Italian father recognizes room for improvement. Likewise, for Shirley, Ali could easily dismiss or put down his driver’s misconceptions, but he plays the long game, challenging him. It’s not as if Tony is his a pet project -- rather, he sees a dignity in a man dedicated to a job that conflicts with his sensibilities.

Director Peter Farrelly (famously with his brother Bob) has never been a filmmaker that strives for awards, fanfare, or recognition. The consistent theme of his work is approachability. As such, Green Book is little more than a film about two people who become friends, but, especially in this day and age, that’s more than enough.

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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