Inspired by a true story, “Green Book” follows an African-American musician and an Italian-American bouncer’s journey through the Deep South in the 1960s. The film keeps audience members invested in the unlikely friendship that blooms between both characters in spite of unfavorable circumstances.
Mahershala Ali plays the sophisticated Dr. Don Shirley, a famous African-American pianist in need of a chauffeur for his trio’s nationwide concert tour. Shirley hires an Italian nightclub worker from the Bronx named Tony Lip (Viggo Mortenson) to transport him between concert venues and handle trouble along the way. The pianist can only visit hotels and other places listed in “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook of places that were known to be friendly toward African-Americans during this time period. Shirley’s expectation of trouble is not left unfulfilled as the two travel through states like Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. Throughout the film, both men find themselves in situations that test Lip’s racial prejudices, Shirley’s dignity and the status quo of America in 1962.
Director Peter Farrelly is famous for his comedies, including “There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber.” “Green Book” is his first dramatic film, but Farrelly stayed true to his comedic style with jokes and banter between the characters. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Farrelly handled the difficult topic of race during this time period. The film was powerful without being aggressive and laugh-out-loud funny without being insensitive. The many hilarious moments balanced the passionate and emotional scenes, leaving audience members laughing one minute and crying the next.
The many hilarious moments balanced the passionate and emotional scenes, leaving audience members laughing one minute and crying the next.
Most of the humor in “Green Book” is centered around Lip’s impulsive personality and lack of filter. His absent manners and terrible grammar frustrate the sophisticated Shirley, a man who never left home without a crisp suit and a smile. Along the road, the two men teach one another about dignity, enjoying life, and the power of an unlikely friendship.
Overall, “Green Book” was a perfect balance of lighthearted humor and powerful human connection. The film stayed true to its central themes of compassion, understanding, and loving one another despite our differences. The final heartwarming scene was predictable, but it also stayed true to the director’s intentions.