Simple Review: A safe drive
As we near the end of the year the studios start releasing their “awards” movies trying to get noticed by the voters for the various awards given out in the industry with the new year looming. This shameless strategy does have its advantages for us, the movie-going public, as we get to see some of the best actors and filmmakers in the business bringing their “A” game at the end of the year. This week I went to see Green Book a film that snuck up on me but with Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as the main stars of this one, I knew I wouldn’t dare miss it. So, is Green Book a virtuoso performance, or is it off key? Well, put on your tux and meet me at the theater to behold this reviews brilliance!
In the early 1960s, streetwise New Yorker Tony Lip ( I know that’s not his last name but I love that ” Tony Lip” so cool), played by Viggo Mortensen, takes a job driving Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, through the deep south on a music tour that Dr. Shirley is the star of. As Dr. Shirley is African-American, the trip is a dangerous one, to say the least, and Tony’s “special” qualifications make him a valuable asset to the traveling musician and a friendship develops between the unlikely pair. Green Book is directed by Peter Farrelly famous for being half of the Farrelly brothers, directors of comedies such as There is Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, and I was interested to see what he would do with a more dramatic turn. To my surprise, the director of comedies that are known for pushing the envelope on humor played it very safe with Green Book. Before we get to that, let’s highlight the positives the movie gives us and celebrate some damn fine acting.
Yes, the highlight of Green Book are the performances of Viggo and Mahershala and the chemistry between the two. Viggo is the main focus of the film, as we learn the most about Tony’s life struggling to make ends meet in his Italian-American neighborhood. Tony is a simple guy, a bit on the disgusting side but sure of himself and his “talents”. Viggo adds a ton of humor to the performance and gives Tony a moral center from which he works from. Tony begins the film, not so much a racist, but more of a man who has only lived in one neighborhood his whole life so his way of looking at things stems from that upbringing. Yes, he says racist things but more from ignorance than hate. As he learns what Dr. Shirley goes through because of the color of his skin, Tony alters his views and defends his boss any way he can. Viggo is a great actor and he shines in the film keeping us entertained throughout the whole movie.
Mahershala Ali is just as excellent as Dr. Shirley, bringing such quiet dignity to a man facing racism and judgment from everyone for simply doing what he loves to do. Dr. Shirley cannot give into the emotion that Tony can because he knows all too well what the white concert-goers think of him. He has to battle his place in the world as he doesn’t fit in with the rich white people watching him perform, and he doesn’t fit in with African-Americans that are struggling to survive day to day. Ali mixes the confidence and intelligence of a man that has been trained to play piano since he was a child with a lonely man unsure of his place in the world. His chemistry with Viggo is amazing as his contempt for Tony gives way to a lasting friendship that happens naturally and never feels forced or rushed. Mahershala continues to impress with each new performance and I look forward to his next project.
As for the rest of the positives, it does get a little more challenging. The rest of the cast is fine adding what they need to the film, even if it is a bit one-note. The music is exceptional and I loved the way the piano sounded in the theater. When Dr. Shirley plays the piano it overpowers every other sound in the scene making the performance the safe place Dr. Shirley can go to deal with the frustrations he has faced. The scenery is beautiful with the men driving through the southern part of the United States in the late fall/early winter as the leaves change color and Christmas decorations dominate the area. The direction is neither great nor terrible as nothing stands out as a memorable moment of directing or writing, which I guess makes this neither a positive nor a negative. We’ll call it the Switzerland of directing and writing: neutral!
To point out negatives for Green Book is a bit difficult as it is a good movie, just not a movie that pushes us in any new direction. The plot is a standard movie checking off the boxes of plot points you would expect in a movie about race relations in the 1960s. I don’t want to get into spoilers so I will be as vague as possible but you have the typical confrontations with southern police, rednecks in bars and rich white people. I understand that was the nature of the time, but it is so obvious as well as being seen in every movie of this type that you will roll your eyes every now and then. As I stated earlier, it is weird that a director known for pushing limits in comedy would play it so safe here. We could have learned more about the struggles Dr. Shirley faces living a life among elitists only interested in his talent and nothing more, instead, we get much more about Tony and his struggles. While that added to his character, I would have loved to have seen more of Dr.Shirley’s life and the personal battles he faced. I left the movie feeling that there is so much more about Dr.Shirleys life that could have been explored instead of skimmed over. Perhaps it was just me, but it felt like a missed opportunity.
We have reached the end of our journey through this delightful review of Green Book. Despite the film being very predictable, I really had a good time watching it. The performances from the main leads are worth watching alone and I would not be surprised if either or both receive a nomination for some award. Should you see this in the theater? Well, if you watched the trailer and thought, ” that looks like a good movie”, then go see it you won’t be disappointed. It is an entertaining film and worth a watch, not a must see, but definitely, one to watch when you get a chance.
Agree or disagree? Love what you read or hated it? 9 Just Kidding I know you loved reading my review) leave a comment I’d love to hear from you. Please like, follow and share my brilliance so we can shed the light of brilliance on this dull rock floating through space.
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho