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MOVIE: GREEN BOOK

| 21 January 2019 | Reply

MOVIE: GREEN BOOK
Directed by Peter Farrelly
Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly
Starring Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
92%

Named after the guide book which advised negros of destinations to enjoy their “vacation without aggravation” in Southern America in the ‘60s, Green Book is essentially a road trip buddy movie based on a true story.

A beefed up and constantly eating Viggo Mortensen is Tony Vallelonga, an Italian greeter-cum-bouncer at the famous Copacabana in 1962 who just about scrapes through financially supporting his wife and two kids. When the club closes for two months of renovations, Vallelonga – who refuses to resort to working with criminal friends with mafia contacts, but shows some racism early in the film – has to find some way to pay the rent.

Enter Dr Don Shirley, played with dignity, grace, and calm fury at the institutionalised racism throughout America, by Mahershala Ali. A revered jazz pianist, Shirley contracts Vallelonga to be his driver – and protector – on an eight-week tour of the deep South.

The Doctor is clearly Vallelonga’s intellectual and social superior in every way – except in the eyes of many Americans due to his skin colour – and the two butt heads to begin with, as in all good buddy movies.

Things start getting really interesting, though, when the genteel doctor and the street-smart Vallelonga start to learn from each other as the racism shown them escalates as the tour ventures further south.

Importantly, Farrelly doesn’t allow his experience with simple comedies Dumb And Dumber and Something About Mary to keep him from exploring the complex issues faced by our heroes. Not only do they have to contend with the racism that was and still does lurk at the rancid heart of everything America stands for – the disgusting hypocrisy of a black man feted as the star of the evening’s entertainment, yet not allowed to use the same toilet or restaurant as his fans is a slap in the face every time – but there is also jealousy from poor blacks towards Shirley’s success, and Vallelonga cops his fair share of anti-Italian sentiment as well.

Peppered with real humour which only makes the infected scab of America’s prejudice even more toxic, Green Book is a powerful and important movie whose uplifting tone should not be allowed to make the viewer ignore the racism at its core.

Ali and Mortensen shine, their complex characters and initially difficult friendship given every chance to breath. Written by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and Tony Vallelonga’s son Nick, the script confronts the challenges the pair face head on, never shying away from the truth, nor the warmth at the heart of their human story.

It is sad, then, to have read that the family of Dr Don Shirley have since insisted that the relationship between Shirley and Vallelonga was never one of true friendship, but remained no more than employer and employee. Whether true or not, perhaps the fairytale would have been a nicer way to remember the film and help to carry the powerful message home.

Shane

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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