Green Book

Green Book

2018, PG-13, 130 min. Directed by Peter Farrelly. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Don Stark.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Wed., Nov. 21, 2018

Two terrific performances and the interplay between the two actors – Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen – are the reasons to see Green Book. Their pas de deux is a master class in acting, and the twosome’s give and take provides good company for the road trip that comprises the heart of this narrative. So rich are their performances that their display helps to detract from the film’s predictability and easy resolution of ingrained prejudice.

Green Book (the title coming from the “Negro Motorists Guide” which listed places that would rent to people of color who were on the road) is a historic piece set in 1962, and is based on the experiences of the classically trained pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), who is touring his professional trio through the Deep South and being driven from gig to gig by temporarily laid-off Copacabana bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen). Don is a cultured artiste and Tony is a prejudiced goombah, whose practical needs (Don for protection and Tony for extra income) and natural antipathy turns to mutual admiration and friendship over the course of their journey. There are kernels of truth in their dramatic arcs in which social and racial prejudices are erased by active proximity. However, more than seeming like a reversely cast Driving Dr. Shirley, Green Book is more likely to remind the viewer of an Odd Couple reunion. Don and Tony bicker like a persnickety Felix and earthy Oscar.

Green Book is directed by Peter Farrelly, and co-written with him by Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga, whose tales about his father’s time driving for Don Shirley forms the basis of this film. This film might seem like a stretch for those who only associate Farrelly’s name with raunchy films like There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. Yet pay close attention to the films Farrelly’s not only written, directed, and produced (usually with his brother Bobby) and you’ll find a soft, mushy center full of love for its defenseless and unfairly abused characters, whether they are mentally challenged ( … Mary, The Ringer), overweight (Shallow Hal), a conjoined twin (Stuck on You), or dimwits (Dumb and Dumber, The Three Stooges). Few of his plots could fully play out in the real world, thus Green Book’s historical specificity is unusual. If prejudice were as easy to resolve as in this movie’s 1962 example, its presence would be virtually unknown in our present day. Still, movies can also exist to inspire and offer prototypes for the future, even if their basic tenets exceed the currently possible. The film’s appeal to audiences is demonstrated by its win of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at September’s Toronto International Film Festival. Additionally, time passes quickly in this rearview road trip in which the marvelous interaction between Ali and Mortensen provides the forward locomotion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Peter Farrelly Films
Dumb and Dumber To
They're ba-ack!!!

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 21, 2014

Movie 43
This raunchy collection of short films drew A-list talent behind and in front of the camera.

Kimberley Jones, Feb. 1, 2013

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021

Marjorie Baumgarten's Top 10 of 2020
Marjorie Baumgarten's Top 10 of 2020
"An eye toward 2020 hindsight"

Dec. 18, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Green Book, Peter Farrelly, Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Don Stark

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle