Green Book is one of the biggest awards season contenders and with good reason.
The movie tells the true story of a friendship between Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer in a New York nightclub in the 1960s whose offered the job of being the driver and bodyguard for a black piano player named “Doc” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali).
At first the relatownship is rocky due to their differences in nearly every way: Frank is uncultured and coarse while “Doc” is refined with an eloquent speech pattern and dress sense. Together they embark on a two month trip through the Deep South where “Doc” is expected to play in front of a series of white people and Frank is given a guide to help Doc find the most convenient locations of where to eat and sleep for African-Americans. This book is called the Green Book.
Frank and Doc have varying degrees of what they expect out of the other, but they do get a few moments of bonding especially over what to do with the remains of their lunch from KFC. Doc also help Frank become more poetic with letters that he sends home to his wife (Linda Cardenelli).
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are at the top of their game with winning performances and an undeniable chemistry.
This premise could’ve been a disaster in the wrong hands, but thanks to a sure-handed touch, Green Book approaches being something that is timely and equal parts funny, poignant, and insightful.
The screenplay is witty and well-articulated throughout and it’s a closely observed portrait of this real-life friendship that always manages to stay authentic.
Director Peter Farrerly, one half of the Farrerly brothers, is a surprising choice for the material given his proclivity for scatological humor such as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, but here he shows considerable range and treats this story with dignity.
This is wonderfully made film that got me engrossed from start to finish.
(Rated PG-13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.)