A good movie is one that you still talk about long after the movie finishes. Green Book will have you talking way into the next day.
Set in 1962, Green Book tells the tale of an interesting friendship between an Italian nightclub bouncer, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and an African American pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). Dr. Shirley hires Tony to chauffeur him during a record tour set in the Deep South. As the two men travel, an unlikely friendship forms which leads to changes in Tony’s understanding and treatment of African Americans.
The movie gets its title from a popular travel book which was a bible for African Americans traveling across the United States. "The Negro Motorist Green Book," also known as "The Negro Travelers' Green Book” was published from 1936-1966. It was a guide that helped African-American travelers find lodging, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve them during a time when segregation was rampant. Being caught on certain roads after dark in Sundown towns would precipitate African American being jailed or worse.
Much like last year’s Hidden Figures, Green Book is a movie that provides an interesting look at a time in America’s history which we need to revisit in order to stop it from repeating. While based on two real people, the movie is mainly from Tony’s point of view. It is his character which grows and changes. Written by Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something about Mary) and Nick Vallelonga (Tony’s son), the screenplay was developed from actual audio tapes from Tony about the events that happened while he worked for Don Shirley. Featuring Octavia Spencer as executive producer and featuring many of Tony’s real life family members portraying his family in the movie, Green Book has hutzpah.
Sadly the producers didn’t get Dr. Shirley’s family’s input and they have dismissed the movie as just another “white hero” movie. Yet, the movie does a nice job portraying the isolation of Dr. Shirley and the unique dynamic between the two men. Not meant to be a biography, Green Book does what it set out to do—showcase the horrible time in America’s history and how one man changed his feelings and behavior towards African Americans based on his relationship with one man.
After winning three Golden Globes, Green Book is an odds on favorite for taking home at least one Oscar. This is a movie you will want to see again and again as you walk away with hope that if one man can change, then the world has a chance as well.
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