Saturday, January 12, 2019

Movie Review: "Green Book" (2018)

Director: Peter Farrelly
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

A nightclub bouncer is hired to drive a black musician through the pre-Civil Rights southern United States.

Green Book 2018 movie
"I got no problem bein' your valet, but I ain't no butler." (Image Source)
Look! It's "Driving Miss Daisy," but in reverse, now with ten times more uses of the phrase "my ass"! "Green Book" is directed by Peter Farrelly, yes, the same man who directed "Dumb and Dumber," "King Pin," and "Stuck on You." ...wat? Farrelly also helped write the film along with Brian Currie and Nick Vallelonga, the son of the film's protagonist Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen). Tony Vallelonga, aka "Tony Lip," is an uncultured, loud-mouthed racist Italian tough guy working as a bouncer at the Copacabana. After the Copacabana gets shut down following an incident involving the hat of a local gangster, Tony is left looking for temporary employment. He is offered a job as a driver for Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a brilliant but apprehensive African American pianist who is about to embark on a tour of the deep south. Tony is picked less for his skills as a driver and more for his innate ability to handle trouble, which will be needed considering they will be traveling in the pre-Civil Rights era south. Before they start their 8-week trek, Dr. Shirley's record company gives Tony The Negro Motorist Green-Book, a guide for African Americans looking to visit the south that shows the places they are allowed to sleep, eat, etc. Tony's trip with Dr. Shirley is about to give him a tiny glimpse of what life is like to be black in the segregated southern United States.
Green Book 2018 movie
"Dignity always prevails." (Image Source)
When you hear the name 'Peter Farrelly,' you probably don't think about films dealing with social issues through the exploration of an "Odd Couple"-style relationship between a blue-collar Italian bouncer and a brilliant, wealthy African American pianist who embark upon a road trip through the pre-Civil Rights south. You're probably more likely to think of stupid goofball comedies loaded with slapstick gags, toilet humor, and characters who scream a lot. "Green Book" is a movie about a white man learning what the phrase "white privilege" really means. Tony Lip is an unrefined, working-class guy who has financial struggles and not a lot of opportunities considering his best skills consist of being tough, being a bullshitter, and having a healthy appetite. When Tony first meets Dr. Shirley, he sees a college educated black man sitting on a literal throne, a man who has worked immensely hard and who has dedicated his life to a craft that has provided for him considerably. Shirley has a luxurious lifestyle, is very wealthy, and he even has a butler and the right political connections. Tony eventually has to learn that all of that wealth, prestige, and acclaim won't change some people's perception of him (aka racist blowhards who are so set in their ways that they couldn't possibly fathom changing their wildly incorrect beliefs). There was (and still is, unfortunately) a large chunk of the population that sees Dr. Shirley and all black people as less than themselves, and in turn, treat them in accordance with that ignorant perception.

The best part about "Green Book" is the acting. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali both give fantastic, award-worthy performances in this film, and the two of them have terrific chemistry together. Honestly, their performances are way too good for such a pedestrian affair. Despite being accessible and easily digestible, the movie itself is totally formulaic and, by design, is a glossy Holywood awards-bait biography. We thought we were moving away from these "safer" types of pictures when it comes to awards, but we guess we were wrong. Unfortunately, the title of the film is pretty misleading since The Negro Motorist Green Book is merely used as a facilitating prop once or twice when convenient. It probably would have been more fitting to call this film "shove ya racism up your ass," which we're sure was a working title at some point given Tony Lip's penchant for saying the word "ass."
Green Book 2018 movie
"The world's full of lonely people waiting to make the first move." (Image Source)
For us, "Green Book" isn't the best movie of the year, but we did enjoy it quite a bit. The acting is certainly deserving of recognition. If it weren't for Ali and Mortensen, this project would have fared much worse than it did. Despite offering almost nothing new, we still think it is still worth watching. It might not offer a nitty-gritty look at racism and/or a scathing political indictment like "BlacKkKlansman," "Sorry to Bother You," "Blindspotting," or even "If Beale Street Could Talk," which are all better, far more effective films, but that doesn't make it a total loss.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.3/10
RT Rating: ~81%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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