Directed by Peter Farrelly
Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Running Time 2 hours, 10 minutes
MPAA rating PG-13
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
Movie magic is when the impossible becomes possible. Only in the movies can I witness someone travel back in time, a person use a coffin as a bed and transform into a bat at will, or a werewolf drive a car while rocking out to Queen. Hollywood has been enchanting viewers since its inception. Filling our heads with unrealistic ideas. Fantasies. Often these thoughts are welcome. For maybe that two hours or so, spent in the dark theater, I can escape this cruel, dismal, hateful world, pretending that not everything is horrible. Hollywood has been working its magic for years, putting us under their spell. In their most recent yarn, Green Book, they’ve even managed to convince us that the ideal way to deal with racism is welllllll...just laugh at it.
Starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, the two hour and ten minute (based on a true story) drama makes use of comedy to tackle the heavy subject of bigotry in the 1960s. Viggo plays Tony Lip, an Italian-American living in the Bronx, who finds himself jobless after the nightclub he works as a bouncer for, closes for renovations. Within the first fifteen minutes, it is pretty easy to figure out who Tony is. He is your racist uncle at Thanksgiving. However, despite this major shortcoming you still love the guy, because well he is really fun to drink beer and watch a ball game with. He also considers an entire pizza pie, a single slice.
Tony needs to find work to support his family while the nightclub is closed. Funny thing about Tony is, his ideas of making ends meet consists of hot dog eating contests and pawn stores. When he gets a call about a doctor looking for a driver, he decides, maybe this would be a better option than possibly giving himself heart disease and high blood pressure. Enter, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a sophisticated, world-renowned classically trained pianist who just so happens to be black and not a medical doctor.
Dr. Shirley is looking to employ the services of a driver to chauffeur him on a concert tour for eight weeks in which he will traverse through the Deep South. Being that it is the early 1960s, this job will involve more than just driving; the Doc is also seeking reinforcement. With their trusty “Green Book” travel guide to ensure a black traveler is able to “vacation without aggravation” this unlikely duo hit the road.
Throughout the course of the trip, the bigoted and at times, child-like, Tony Lip learns many lessons, one may say he even matures. Although, the biggest “a-ha moment” for this crass and outspoken character is realizing that the color of someone’s skin does not define who they are. Cause, hey, people are individuals not able to be categorized.
Throughout the more than two hour flick, Tony Lip spouts offensive and hurtful dialogue that’s often softened by his colorful and entertaining character. Giving this idea that, wellll, he is a racist, buttttt he’s not that bad. Meanwhile, the character of Dr. Shirley is subjected to hearing Tony’s “worldly” thoughts on black culture and way of life simply because he has listened to a few Chubby Checker and Little Richard songs.
So. I saw this movie twice. The first time, I actually really liked it. Picture it, the Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF). I am there with my best pal, MJ’s Fixer, Jaime Leahhh Davis, my Canadian Pals Charles Van and Kelly. Viggo is there. Like, he is actually in the room with us watching the film. It is great. This is what you call film fest haze.
The second time, I watch this thing with a room full of mostly old white people. The theater walls are rocking from the laughter and suddenly, I don’t feel right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Tony Lip and the Doc are probably one of the most entertaining film friendships I’ve seen in quite some time. These actors hit their mark each and every time, frankly, WHICH IS TO BE EXPECTED. We are not talking about two rodeo clowns here, this is Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award Winning Mahershala Ali. These two could make anything entertaining, just give ‘em a script and they’ll impress.
This second viewing though, it just didn’t feel right. Suddenly the picture length seemed too long, which inevitably causes the “message” to be lost. That old Hollywood magic wore off and instead I was left feeling duped. On my bike ride home from the screening, I couldn’t help but think there’s a reason this is coming out on Thanksgiving, it is the perfect comfort film to take your racist uncle too, cause heck, even if they are a closed-minded ass, being a racist can still be...funny?