Green Book **** (4 Stars)
- Opening: January 31, 2019
- USA 2018
- Directed by: Peter Farrelly
- Writing Credits: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
- Principal Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali,
1962, New York City: Tony (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer for the legendary Copacabana, is a man that can deal with “problematic situations”. When the “Copa” is closed for renovations, he is in need of an interim job solution. At the same time, Piano virtuoso Dr. Shirley (Mahershala Ali), is looking for an assistant for a concert tour through several states, many of which are in the deep south – which back in 1962 were still under strict observation of racial segregation.
So naturally, this won’t just be a chauffeur job, but might be a task for his “problem solving skills”. Tony is reluctant to be a “butler” to a “negro” but in the end: If the money is right, Tony won’t mind who he works for.
The pair couldn’t be any more different. Dr. Shirley is sophisticated, speaks in impeccable diction, and is a calm and genius soul. Tony, on the other hand is impulsive, rough and uneducated. A miss-match made in heaven.
During the course of the 2 months on tour, driving hundreds of miles together, Tony gets to see the discrimination and heavy burden Dr. Don Shirley carries as a black man in 1960’s America. Accepted and cherished for his fine art of music, Shirley, at the same time, is supposed to use the outhouse and won’t be served dinner in the main restaurant.
The title of the film refers to “the Negro Motorist Green Book” – a guide for those travelling the United States, unsure where to stay, eat or pump gas in unknown areas if they are black. This book is the necessary reference for Tony to get around the south, making sure Don Shirley reaches all his concerts without delay or trouble. If only a book could solve the real problems that easily!
We are at a point in time where this movie seems to be a necessary reminder of what has been, and where we have been heading in the United States, and all over Europe, so it feels. This film, based on true events, exposing hypocritical morals and everyday racism in the Southern 60’s does not hide the fact that you don’t have to be a Southern hillbilly to be racist then, or today for that matter.