green book: a review
Director: Peter Farrelly
Running time: 130 mins
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Mahershala Ali
WINNER: Best Picture, 91st Academy Awards
From the director best known for Me, Myself, and Irene and Dumb and Dumber comes a far more mature and engrossing project.
A true to life story based on the travels in the Deep South of the USA of Don Shirley, a classical jazz pianist, and Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga, an ex-bouncer serving as driver and bodyguard. It is named after ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book,’ a mid-century travel guide to help African American drivers find friendly services and avoid racial harassment.
Frank is a well-natured, hard drinking and full-eating, burly nightclub doorman with a solid reputation but an employment gap. An Italian American family man with rent to pay; he interviews for a job with a travelling classical jazz trio driving the lead player to concerts, hotels, and social engagements.
His quarry is Don Shirley. A well to do, healthy, somewhat aloof, black man with a style of playing that filled auditoriums wherever he would play. The two meet and uncomfortably share ethos and desires. They do not warm immediately. Tony balks at Don and his attempts to refine him, whereas Don is sickened by Tony and his habits with eating and such. He instantly develops and unfriendly rapport with the rest of the band. An awkward start to a relationship that we know will burgeon into something.
Frank promises to be home for Xmas eve to his ever-loving wife, played by Linda Cardellini, who my generation knows best as Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks. She is supportive but worried. Frank departs promising to write and improve himself. Hoping that as his travels broaden his horizons, he will learn to express himself.
The beautiful cinematography by Sean Porter makes the film a visual treat, coupled with the director’s history of road trip movies, it gives a comfortable feel and an impressive shine.
It is a film that invites a cliché cluster. You may expect lots of violence from the bouncer with the gruff voice, especially with his Italian American heritage and hints at mob ties. It is not completely free of these, but it is not as extreme or as clear cut as you would expect.
In short this is one of the films you happily watch that passes by and the titles greet you with the realization that you really enjoyed the movie that has just happened.
The warmth and the earnest journey they all go on, including those left at home will win over cynics and please the romantics. An absolute triumph.