Five Reasons You’ll Love It - February 4, 2019

Green Book: Five Reasons You'll Love It
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Green Book: Five Reasons You'll Love It

Along with his brother Bobby, director Peter Farrelly has made a name for himself over the last couple of decades as something of a specialist in a certain type of comedy, with a list of films to his name that includes the likes of Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal, but his latest film marks quite the left turn for Farrelly and is one of several movies in the running at this year's Academy Awards.

Based on the true story of renowned African-American concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his driver-cum-bodyguard Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, Green Book recounts Tony's recruitment by Dr. Shirley for a tour across the American mid-West and Deep South during the 1960s, a time when the Jim Crow laws were very much still in effect across the country's segregated southern states.

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen star as Dr. Don Shirley and Tony Lip, respectively, alongside a cast which also includes Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco and P.J. Byrne. Peter Farrelly directs, working from a script written by Tony Lip's real-life son Nick Vallelonga.

With the film arriving in UK cinemas over the weekend, we caught a screening and rounded up five reasons why we think you'll love Green Book...

 

The film's two leading men are excellent...

Viggo Mortensen has landed himself a nomination for Best Actor for his role in the film, while Mahershala Ali has also earned a nomination for his portrayal of Don Shirley in the Best Supporting Actor category. Both are richly deserved and our only complaint about their respective nominations is that Green Book is such an even two-hander between the pair, we can only imagine the filmmakers tossed a coin to decide which was the leading role. It's the chemistry between them that really carries the film and makes Green Book such an enjoyable ride.

 

It really highlights the varying pace of change across America during the 1960s...

As the film makes clear, Dr. Shirley wasn't naïve about what he was letting himself in for with a tour across America's deep south and while attitudes had progressed more quickly in coastal cities such as New York during the era of the civil rights movement, the movie shows how racial segregation was still rife in the former Confederate states.

The 'Green Book' from which the film takes its name was a real document produced by African-American postal worker Victor Hugo Green as a guide for black motorists making their way across the country, listing venues and hotels that would be more amenable to accepting black guests. With rules on segregation varying from one town to the next, the pair's journey across America proves to fraught with potential dangers, and it isn't just Dr. Shirley that finds himself in the crosshairs.

 

It's funnier than you might imagine...

Charlie Chaplin once said that life is a tragedy in close-up but a comedy in long shot, and although Green Book is billed as a comedy-drama, with such heavy subject matter at its heart it's not easy to see where the laughs are going to come from. But it's in the story's most tender and truthful moments that the comedy in the situation shines through and while this is a very different brand of humour than you might expect from a Peter Farrelly film, it's still undeniably funny in places.

 

The soundtrack is cleverly woven into the film...

Dr. Shirley's considerable piano-playing talents and the various stops on his tour offer plenty of opportunities to weave his performances into the film's soundtrack, but there are other nice touches too, from the songs playing on the car radio which lead to a discussion about Dr. Shirley's more refined tastes in music, to composer Kris Bowers' more subtle score interventions throughout the film. The lack of Oscar nomination in this category feels like an oversight somehow.

 

Ultimately, it's an uplifting tale of friendship...

The film has received its share of criticism from some quarters for the way it depicts racial issues during the era and has been described as a 'white man's perspective' on the civil rights era, but given that the script was written by Tony Lip's son it's perhaps not surprising that the narrative pans out the way it does, based on his father's recollections. Screenwriter Nick Vallelonga doesn't shy away from highlighting his father's own ignorant attitudes either, but the film is as much about Tony Lip's learning curve as anything else and, ultimately, it's the growing friendship between the pair – and the message of fighting ignorance through experience - that makes the story such an uplifting one.

 

 

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