A racial reconciliation fantasy designed to be a crowd puller that guilt trips white audiences. Green Book review brought to you by AboutFlick’s Mr T.
Director: Peter Farrelly
Review: Set in 1962 America, Green Book is a story about the friendship that developed between Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American pianist and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American bouncer. Tony doubles up as his driver and bodyguard during Shirley’s concerts in the segregated south. The film’s name is derived from a handbook available during the era which supposedly listed ‘safe’ places for people of colour to dine or stay in, without facing aggression from vicious racists.
The film is quite well-made in terms of technicality. The cinematography is good, so are the editing and production design. Both lead actors Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen have incredible range, and their performances are captivating. Ali, who has never been afraid to take on roles that tackle issues of racism head on, as in Moonlight (2016), Luke Cage or True Detective, is no different here and delightful to watch. Viggo Mortensen has previously appeared as a strongman or hitman in films like Eastern Promises (2007) and A History Of Violence (2005) and this character is a radical departure from his earlier work. The chemistry between the leads is noteworthy, and saves the movie from drowning in mediocrity.
Now, as I’m sure many critics have pointed out before, the accuracy of the events in Green Book is up for debate. It’s also a very simplistic breakdown of the struggles of people of colour in the USA, told through a predominantly white lens. It perpetuates the white saviour narrative, where a lost black soul in Don Shirley gets token lessons on the importance of family and culture from Vallelonga. The film feels very formulaic and derivative of buddy cop dramas from the 1980s, and it’s like watching Driving Miss Daisy (1989), only in reverse. Italian Americans are presented as uncouth and thick-headed, and the women in the film are the exact opposite of fleshed out characters. Some may call it feel-good and heart-warming, but I think the correct term is cliched.
With scenes like Shirley being refused admittance to a restaurant or restroom, being beaten up and subjected to discrimination by police, this racial reconciliation fantasy is designed to be a crowd puller that guilt trips white audiences. Is Green Book the best film of 2018? Certainly not. Is it the best film on racial issues of 2018? Nope. Depending on who you ask, that title belongs to either BlacKkKlansman or The Hate You Give. This is the best movie of 1990, unfortunately made in 2018.
Rating: My rating for Green Book is 3/5.
Who should watch this: Anyone who likes films on racial intolerance should watch Green Book. You should also check out BlacKkKlansman (2018), The Hate You Give (2018), Get Out (2017), Selma (2014) and Malcolm X (1992).