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January 14, 2019

Green Book (2018) --- "Inspired By The True Story Of An Unlikely, Lifelong Friendship."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly (Dumber and Dumber To) and co-written by Nick Vallelonga (Green Book as Augie) and Brian Hayes Currie (Actor in Con Air, Armageddon), Green Book (2018) takes place in the 1960s and is based on a true story about an unlikely friendship. Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is a highly famous and incredibly successful pianist embarking on a tour in the Deep South. However, his race as an African American might be an issue and a threat to his safety in a highly racial world of the Deep South. So Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a cocky tough-guy Italian from the Bronx, is hired to be his driver and bodyguard. From the start it is clear that they come from two completely worlds – Tony is an unrefined, academically dim, and proud of his rough Italian heritage while Don is classy, well-educated, and proud of his classical training. As the tour progresses and they come to rely on one another, they learn more about each other’s character, the problem of racial injustice and by the end, they have formed an unlikely friendship. This is not a film you want to miss.

     Now, a lot of people might assume that this film is successful because it addresses the racial issues of the ’60s but honestly that is not even what this film does well in nor is it what the story is about. Instead of being similar to Selma (2014), Green Book is more like Driving Miss Daisy (1989). While it addresses the racial issues of the Deep South it is a story about friendship more than anything, which is exactly like Green Book. In addition, the story also demonstrates that sometimes being alone means not being accepted, a fact that not many films have successfully conveyed. Fortunately, Green Book does exactly that, it shows the complex and dark issues surrounding race in the ’60s as well as the power and emotion of feeling truly alone.
     The story has the two characters stuck in the car going from one town to another for much of the film but the script allows for enough funny moments to feel natural without trying to hard to be a comedy. It focuses more on the comedic situation of two completely different guys from two different races taking a trip through a highly racial territory. This I found to be refreshing because most films would have skipped to or have focused more on the racial issues, which is admirable but overdone by a lot. Another reason why this film was successful is that it's based on the real-life story about the beginning of a lifelong friendship, and one of the film’s writers is the son of one of the real-life characters. However, despite the successful nature of this film, it does embrace the bitter and blunt reality of the 1960s, from homophobia to racism with some crude language that is “acceptable” for a PG-13, so I recommend no one under 14 should see this film.
     Director Farrelly may be seasoned in humoristic comedies but with him at the helm and Sean Porter (20th Century Women) as the cinematographer, the audience experiences the bitter reality and vividly colorful world of the ’60s, from New York in the north to Alabama in the south. The entire film feels and looks like it belongs in the ’60s. From the complex set designs, detailed costumes, timely placed music, and the overall tone of the film never run out of depth, despite being shot over 50 years later.
     The cast performances are solid and impressive. I am a huge fan of Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings, Captain Fantastic) and boy does he shine in this film with an impressive and believable Italian-American impersonation, especially since he’s Danish. He transformed spectacularly to be the character with his weight gain, perfect accent, and mannerisms of a cocky tough-guy Italian man. He was perfect and I don’t think anyone else could have done the role justice, not even Robert De Niro, who did a similar role in The Family (2013). Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Alita: Battle Angel) gives a more nuanced performance that I sure will make a nice Oscar-nomination; while Mortensen's performance may be a little too broad for one. The rest of the cast give good performances, especially since in the Vallelonga family scenes, Tony’s real family members play most of the relatives.

      Overall, Green Book (2018) is a must watch and highly entertaining film about the beginning of an unlikely yet lifelong friendship. And while I am sure that not everyone will be willing to see this or will have the same positive feelings I have afterward, it is still a crowd pleaser. The story is powerful and eloquent with comedic elements throughout but it also embraces the bitter and blunt reality of the ’60s with elements from homophobia to racism. As such I do not believe that this film is suited for anyone under the age of 14. If you enjoyed Selma (2014) you will enjoy this one but don’t expect the two films to be parallel. However, if you enjoyed Driving Miss Daisy (1989) then you will absolutely enjoy this film, as the two stories have a lot of commonalities.

"Being genius is not enough, it takes courage to change people's hearts"
- Dr. Don Shirley

Final Vote --- 9.5 of 10 stars

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