“Green Book” A True Friendship Amos Lassen Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen star in “Green Book” which is inspired by a true friendship that transcended race, class and the Mason-Dixon line in 1962. When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist living in the closet, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they have to use “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger as well as unexpected humanity and humor, the two men set aside differences to survive and thrive. The film, directed by Peter Farrelly, is fun, hugely entertaining and enjoyable, with lots of laughs, some broad, some more subtle and some wicked. It is based on a true story, but the true story cannot really have been quite like this. What seems to be missing is the true sense of danger that the situations shown on screen must have kicked up and most of the characters are way too nice or become nice too easily. Tony Lip is the working-class Italian-American bruiser bouncer, who in a two-month lull between gigs, is taken on as driver/ minder by Dr. Don Shirley, a rather effete African-American classical pianist, who seeks out his help on his three-man band tour of venues through the bigoted American South in the early Sixties. Mortensen carries of the working-class Italian-American impersonation securely, and even triumphantly, for the whole movie and Mahershala Ali is a thinking man’s pianist, classically trained at St Petersburg but reduced to popular work to sell records. Ali is splendidly waspish, superior and bossy, a good foil to Mortensen’s practical everyman character.This is entirely the Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali Show, and what a good show it is and a huge crowd pleaser. The AFI have already awarded it Movie of the Year. Green Book won three Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Nick Vallelonga), Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mahershala Ali).
It almost seems like a revised “Driving Miss Daisy” film, appealing to the same
audience. The cultured Shirley lives in a luxury apartment above Carnegie Hall,
where he interviews Tony for the job following a recommendation. On the
road, the odd couple trade barbs: Shirley with Tony’s poor diction and manners,
Tony for Shirley’s snobbish attitude.
This is a pleasing buddy road film, with the opposites by the journey’s end
bonding to become good friends after sticking together to push back against a
few a racist incidents. The chemistry between the stars is excellent with Viggo
providing all the best comical moments.