Green Book (2018)

This film has had a lot of buzz—both positive and negative—around it before, during, and after awards season. And exactly one week after it became the recipient of three Academy Awards® including Best Picture (destroying Netflix’s equivalent of the Borg Cube in the process), I decided to see it for myself and formulate my own opinions.

GREEN BOOK is a biographical film which follows Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American man from the Bronx looking for temporary employment while his bouncer job at the Copacabana nightclub is held up due to renovations. He meets Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a black classical pianist, and becomes Shirley’s driver on an eight-week tour of the Midwest and Deep South in 1962. Don’s record label also gives Tony a copy of the Negro Motorist Green Book, a guidebook which listed motels, restaurants, and other locations that served black travelers, for which the film is named.

Peter Farrelly has been known, up to this point, mainly for comedy films such as DUMB AND DUMBER, SHALLOW HAL, and THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, often with his brother Bobby. Although the subject matter of this film is decidedly more serious in nature, the humor is thankfully not lost, and a lot of it comes from the dialogue between Tony and Don. Individually, Mortensen and Ali are superb—and Ali’s Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor very well-deserved. Together, they are incredibly captivating to watch. The screenplay (by Farrelly, Vallelonga’s son Nick, and Brian Hayes Currie), which also won an Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay, pulls no punches with regards to racial views of the time, yet it manages to respect both its subjects and the relationship they ultimately forge.

Even though it has been cited for historical and personal inaccuracies (including by relatives of Shirley in particular), I believe GREEN BOOK rightfully won each of its three Oscars® with a realistic but not overly dramatic script, great chemistry between the leads, and a heartwarming finish. And I, for one, am satisfied with this kind of feel-good movie taking home the top prize for the first time in what seems to be many, many years.