In Brief: Green Book is now in wider release. The film is not only one of the year’s best, but it’s for sure the year’s best buddy movie.
“Green Book” is basically a two-person movie. There are supporting characters here and there, but the film’s focus is a short trip that Dr. Don Shirley and his bodyguard Tony “Lip” Vallelonga took in the deep South in 1962. It is about how two vastly different men encounter and deal with the racism that existed in the deep South as well as the supposedly non-racist North.
The trip by the African America jazz pianist is considered historic. Double that when you consider the person driving him and basically acting as a chauffeur is a racist Italian bouncer. Making the trip even more unusual when considering Shirley is educated, refined, elegant and very talented and Vallelonga is a crude, unsophisticated goon with Mafia ties.
Oscar winner Mahershala Ali stars as Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga. They give two of the best male performances of the year.
Ali does Shirley as a guy wound up as tight as one of his piano wires. He’s a clearly unhappy man that doesn’t fit in anyone’s world, not black, not white, not anywhere. He appears controlled and controlling but what little control he actually has happens with the music he plays.
And even that isn’t pleasing.
Mortensen’s Vallelonga is exactly the opposite. He’s crude and as clearly out classed by class. Out of his comfort zone and handling the driving chores for Shirley, he and his boss deal with the racism tossed at Shirley on the trip.
Look for one — or both — to get award nominations at year’s end. By the way, Ali’s acting is so good that you actually believe he is playing the piano with the skill of a concert pianist. The music and playing of the piano — however — is done by Kris Bowers who did the movie’s score.
“Green Book” — true or not — will give you thoughts that this “Driving Miss Daisy” in reverse. It will also have you running down the list all of the buddy movies you’ve ever seen and drawing comparisons.
At first Shirley and Vallelonga — predictably — get along about as well as oil and water. As the film progresses, the bond gets tighter and — presto — you have 2018’s best feel good movie. For some, it might be this year’s best picture.
While I hate the predictability of feel good flicks, they are not necessarily a bad thing. These days — after the non-stop bad news media bombardment we’re experiencing lately — it’s kind of nice to leave a theater with a big smile on the face.
Another plus, unlike most films “based” on true events, my research says this story — while condensed from 18-months to a couple — is fairly accurate. It is what happened to these two, extraordinary individuals at a time with the country was suffering through the birth pangs of the Civil Rights movement. Or so says screenplay writer Nick Vallelonga who just happens to be Tony’s son.
“Book Green” Book on your list of holiday movies. It’s worth the trip.
Director: Peter Farrelly
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Mike Hatton, P.J. Byrne
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. Book Green Book into your holiday movie plans. This is a good one. Give it a 5 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Catch Gary Wolcott Friday afternoons at 4:50 on KXL’s Afternoon News.
Gary has been KXL’s movie critic since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 28-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
He is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.