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article imageReview: ‘Green Book’ is swelling with kindness and humour Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 23, 2018 in Entertainment
‘Green Book’ is a feel-good picture that delivers wholehearted laughs as two men find their differences are what make them better companions for each other.
Though it may not seem like a big deal now, there was a time when certain things simply weren’t done… and many of those things stemmed from the colour of our skin. While some areas were quicker to progress past segregation and the like, others were staunch in their backwards beliefs and tightly held on to them until the choice was no longer theirs. But there were brave men and women who accepted the responsibility of forcing change, as well as the consequences when their efforts were poorly received. In Green Book, an accomplished black musician embarks on a tour of the South.
Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is a renowned concert pianist, having trained in Europe before returning to America. He’s played to sold out halls, dignitaries, royalty and, now, he wants to play for Southern socialites. However, it’s the ‘60s and there are still many states in which being black is viewed as a crime by many. Thus, his record company suggests he recruit a driver who can handle tough situations. Enter Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a well-known local bouncer who’s currently on hiatus during club renovations. They are complete opposites, but see each other as a necessary means to their respective goals… before eventually seeing each other as a friend.
Shirley is educated and refined, but he somewhat overcompensates by living in a lavish apartment with extravagant décor in which he closes himself off from the simple joys of life. Tony, on the other hand, is a prototypical Italian tough guy from New York who loves his family and food. He speaks with his hands, uses slang and could negotiate his way out of the hairiest situations — a skill that comes in handy during their little road trip, though the film never steps into the “white saviour” trap. These two men may as well come from two different planets, but once they agree to give each other a chance and even exchange some customs, the journey becomes more bearable for both of them. Shirley’s way with words even helps Tony keep the spark in his marriage lit while they’re away.
Tony isn’t really comfortable in the sophisticated settings of Shirley’s concerts, but he’s got better manners than some of their hosts. They smile in their formal wear and applaud Shirley’s exquisite performances, but deep-rooted racism is still lurking just beneath their pleasant veneer and it rears its ugly head on more than one occasion — in spite of the more distinguished show, black folk are still entertainers who shouldn’t expect to be treated like “one of them.” Shirley is the leader of a trio that consists of two white string players and they do their part in helping Tony understand his motivations for such a difficult endeavour.
In spite of the bigotry they encounter and the fact that the film’s title comes from the name of a guide, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which lists safe establishments for black people travelling through the South, this is still one of – if not the – best feel good movies of the year. The comedy woven through the entire script is surprising, but completely natural. The friendship that develops between these two dissimilar men is heartwarming and the fact that it’s based on a true story stitched together from tales told to Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga, makes it even more so. Ali and Mortensen could not have been better suited for these roles as they fully embody these characters and make every interaction — antagonistic or otherwise — feel genuine. In fact, it’s difficult to leave them once the narrative comes to an end and viewers may find themselves smiling at the thought of some amusing exchange days later.
Director: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini
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