Tuesday, July 16, 2019

For a Surprisingly Powerful Film About Race Relations and Life: Green Book

A variation on Driving Miss Daisy, another
film about race and class.
I’m really not sure who to give the greatest credit to, but Green Book is an exceptional film that I highly recommend. Initially I would give credit to Viggo Mortensen. This is such a totally different role than I’d would expect, easily worthy of an Oscar.  Then again, why not Mahershala Ali? The interplay between the two reveals so much.

Then I thought of the screenwriters who conceived of this story. The three listed in imdb.com are Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and director Peter Farrelly. It’s a remarkable story, because whoever created this reveals so much about what it means to be human. This is a story of race in America that we don’t often see. Or rather, what we have not seen if we’ve lived life as whites in the North during the 50s.

It’s a funny, sad, beautiful, and rewarding contribution to film history. And a story well told.

Viggo plays the role of an Italian tough guy Tony Lip who’s been a career bouncer. The Copa closes for two months for renovations and Tony Lip needs to find work, and as it turns out he’s sought out to be the bodyguard/valet for world famous black pianist Dr. Don Shirley who has been booked for a series of concerts in the Midwest and Deep South. Just before they leave the record execs hand him a Green Book, a directory that will help him find lodging for the black Dr. Shirley when they go deeper into the Jim Crow south.

Mortenson as Tony Lip.
There are so many great lines, great moments, and great insights about relationships in this country. In addition to the racial divide, there is a economic divide. Dr. Shirley (a wealthy performer, not medical doctor) is paired with the working class Italian.

Great films have great moments and great lines and this one has plenty. “Being a genius is not enough. It takes courage to change people’s hearts” is one line that had me reaching for my pen to keep it from slipping away. Here’s another: “You never win with violence. You only win when you maintain your dignity.”

Based on a true story and what a story. Several times my eyes were moistened. This Amazon.com review by martindonovanItaly sums it up pretty well:

Ali as Dr. Shirley.
A journey of reawakening in a Country like ours - Gore Vidal called it the United States Of Amnesia - the absurdity of the behavior in the Southern communities even the kindest ones have a jarring effect. Viggo Mortensen is sheer perfection as the all American Italian. The opening of his heart and of his mind is a total joy and Mahershala Ali provides another magnetic character to his already rich list of magnetic characters but what makes this film fly so high is the humanity that Mortensen and Ali infuse their characters with. I loved them and Green Book provided me with one of the most satisfying endings of 2018. It leaves you with the hopeful thought that perhaps we're not there yet but that we are on our way.  

I liked this review by Hitchcoc too:

I saw Don Shirley perform in college in 1966. At the time I simply thought he was a hell of a pianist, using that bass and cello to come up with a unique sound. So when this movie came along, I thought "I saw that guy!" I know the critics are being hard on this film, but I sat for two hours, totally captivated. I know there are stereotypes. Could that be because the repeated actions against minorities and the actions of racists have become so commonplace they seem like stereotypes. I believe the performances of these two fine actor made the show. There is a subtlety to this movie that transcends many others of its type.

I can’t say enough got this film, so I will just say this: See it!

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