Green Book (2018)
User ReviewsReview this title
But I couldn't help it ... it really WAS the best film I saw (out of 17), and far and away the most entertaining. I think this is largely because it's based on a real-life story about the beginning of a lifelong friendship - a story that has writing participation by the son of one of the real-life characters. There's definitely an air of authenticity to the events as they unfold that could never occur with a purely contrived plot. Consider: A college-educated concert pianist of Jamaican descent hires a temporarily-unemployed Italian-American nightclub bouncer who's streetwise but academically dim to drive him to venues in the Deep South back in 1962. That's not a setup that a Hollywood script written from scratch would ever have come up with.
The two lead actors really click. Mahershala Ali makes a nice Oscar follow-up playing the aloof pianist passenger to Viggo Mortensen's "b.s. artist" driver. Ali is certain to get another nomination; Mortensen's performance may be a little too broad to garner one, but he delivers exactly what's called for. And he makes a believable Italian-American, which is impressive considering that he's Danish.
I'm allergic to preaching and heavy-handedness in movies no matter what the message, and with the exception of one borderline scene, I'd say that the movie nicely sidesteps these proclivities that surface so often in socially-conscious films.
The music and FX are excellent. When an actor plays a piano player, there's always the challenge of making the playing look believable. It doesn't get any better than it gets here - Ali's piano playing is every bit as convincing as Margot Robbie's ice skating in I, TONYA. You never see a disconnect between hands and body as he's filmed against a variety of backgrounds. And if I could bet on an Oscar win right now, it would be Kris Bowers for Best Original Score. (He also supplies Ali's hands, which should clinch it.)
Top everything off with a Capra-esque Christmas Eve finale and a closing line that sends everyone home smiling, and it all adds up to a monster hit. Its commercial payoff could be huge - the movie practically begs for a TV series spinoff, and the real-life characters remained friends until they both died in 2013.
So congratulations to Peter Farrelly on his graduation from co-directing lowbrow fare to solo-directing middlebrow (i.e. mass-appeal) fare. You can't deny the talent and craftsmanship it takes to make a mainstream movie that works as well as this one does.
I've seen Mortensen in films before and thought he was an okay film actor. His embodiment of Tony Lip is totally immersive. I not only believe his Bronx character, but depiction of Tony's growth as a human being is remarkable to watch. I can't say enough about Ali's performance as Don Shirley. It is nuanced and impressive.
Watching these two characters interact and change each other is fascinating. This isn't just another road-trip buddy movie. It is funny, it is poignant and it is a brilliantly written and crafted film.
The only drawback is, you will have to wait until US Thanksgiving to see it.
Great performances from the entire cast, especially Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali who were perfectly cast and convincing in their roles. It was also great to see comedian Sebastian Maniscalco in this film as well.
Writer, director and producer Peter Farrelly nailed every aspect of this biography.
The score, cinematography, sets and visuals were all on point.
I'm not a fan of slow paced long films, but this was was close to an exception. I feel if the pace was picked up a bit and/or the 130 min run-time edited down to around 110 mins, this would have been a perfect 10 from me.
Excellent drama and comedy perfectly positioned throughout the film.
A well deserved 8/10 from me.
To story, writing, directing -- This movie avoided the traps that road-trip buddy movies faceplant into. Scenes that easily could have been trite and corny were fresh and sharp. No punches pulled, people ground into the dirt and resurrected by sheer strength of will. Some of the events were so painful and unsparing that I had no idea how the movie would end.
Another big thing, the movie wasn't cynical despite some of the ugliness it reveals. Faith, family, honor, are all part of the movie without being in your face. You'll fall in love with the characters.
To say that Green Book, a story about racial relations and acceptance (or lack thereof) is strangely topical, is also an oversimplification. What might be more strange however, isn't the timing of the film's release, or the fact that a story taking place in early 1960's America is contemporary, is the fact that the latest cinematic voice, the newest artist to reintroduce concepts like love and acceptance (concepts Mortensen said are "lost track of a lot these days" in the Q & A session after my TIFF screening of the film) ...is Peter Farrelly. Yes, that Peter Farrelly; the one who countless times teamed up with his brother to bring us trendy comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber, Me Myself & Irene, and There's Something About Mary.
Green Book follows the story of a working class Italian-American, Tony Lip (Viggo Moretensen) who, after losing work as a bouncer, finds himself working for Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American classical pianist on tour through the deep South of 1960's America. The two are the archetypal odd-couple, with Dr. Shirley being scholarly, fastidious and composed and Tony being what would seem to be an Italian-American cinematic stereotype; tough, loud, and brash.
While we may not associate either of the Farrelly brothers with drama, audiences lately haven't associated them with comedy either. Recent releases such as Dumb & Dumber To, The Three Stooges, Hall Pass, even as far back as Fever Pitch had neither audiences nor critics waiting for the next Farrelly project. That changed for me personally when I discovered Green Book, and discovered that not only is Peter turning to more dramatic subject matter, but that his brother isn't a part of the project at all.
"My answer was always 'when it happens'. I never planned what was going to be next, it was just a thing the universe brought you, dropped in your lap, it would be like planning when you're going to fall in love, you never know when it's going to happen" Farrelly told the audience at TIFF that he didn't actively seek out this project, it came up very organically, and that when he heard co-writer Brian Hayes Currie talk about the film, he knew it was a 'home-run' idea.
He might be right. About everything. The fact that this idea came his way and just felt, the timing, his background; this film would not be the same without Farrelly's approach. That may seem self-explanatory, but what I'm addressing is the fact that this film needed the touch of a comedic filmmaker, or at least this specific comedic filmmaker. Within he and his brothers' specific niche of comedy, there was something that was always enjoyable about it, even if the comedy itself, was not. They knew about human connection.
The Farrelly brothers always, without fail, had a shmaltzy moment of love, one way or another. Even when dealing with Lloyd and Harry in Dumb & Dumber, when dealing with caricatures of human beings, there is a bond there, there is a love. So imagine if suddenly Peter Farrelly starting taking things seriously? When a filmmaker understands sentiment and human connection, then it's not such a stretch to make the jump to drama.
Farrelly's influence on the mood of the film is fairly obvious. He's never been a subtle filmmaker, and the film does lack significant drama. After my viewing of the film I wouldn't even categorize it as a drama, because, while there may be hurdles the characters have to overcome, it seems to be a very light-hearted story. Arguably, the most lighthearted version of an extremely heavy subject matter. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, dramatically speaking, but nothing too heavy ever came. Every time there is something even remotely dramatic, the two characters get out of it with relative ease. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but some might see this as too lighthearted, and not truly dealing with the reality of racial segregation and prejudice. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, as it's the tone of the film all three writers and Farrelly were going for, but considering the subject matter, this may actually anger audience members. The title Green Book refers to a 'travel guide' of sorts for African-Americans of that time. Realistically though, it was more of a 'survival-guide', as it informed those families where it was safe to travel, what restaurants they were permitted to eat in, and the 'colored only' locations to lodge. For many families, the Green Book has significant personal meaning.
What I am suggesting, is that is merely subtext, despite what they chose to be the title. The story is really about our shared humanity despite differences, and while these characters do reinforce some stereotypes, it shatters others. Mahershala and Mortensen create characters that are part caricature, part inspiration, but regardless of how you view them, it works. The two are so well-balanced, it's difficult to say if either of them is truly the lead. That's of the utmost importance, as this unlikely friendship is what inspired the film and drives the story.
I never feel like I am watching Mahershala Ali acting, as... to be honest... I don't really know who Mahershala Ali is. (That is a testament to his acting, not a comment on the fact he and I don't hang out in the same social circles). However, his role as Dr. Shirley is drastically different than anything I've seen him do before. His sense of who the character is, his mannerisms, his diction, even his inner thought process become clear through Ali's performance. Since this is a more comedic film in tone, I have to also compliment Ali's sense of timing. The character is reserved for the majority of the film, and being a straight man in a comedic duo is not easy, but Ali finds a brilliant balance of drama and comedy. It's another performance, that while perhaps not award worthy, he will assuredly be remembered for.
Green Book will also be remembered. The balance it finds within small sub-genres of cinema is carefully crafted; part road-trip buddy movie, part period piece, part social commentary, but all enjoyable. It may not spark serious conversation between audience members. It certainly won't solve the social inequality and hatred that plagues many parts of the world still to this day. It does, however, serve as a reminder of the core concepts it successfully portrays. Mortensen when addressing the crowd put it best: "There's something very profound there that we lose track of. These days, we lose track of it a lot. And that is anybody has the right to understand or appreciate other people... you can respect each other ...you can listen to each other."
So if you'll indulge Mortensen's teachings, listen to me... go see Green Book.
The film is about a loud mouth Italian American named Tony Lip who gets a job driving and being protection for a jazz pianist named Don Shirley. Initially, it is seen that the two come from different worlds and are at odds with each other but as time goes on and the two realize how different race relations are in the south, they begin to bond and become closer than they expected they would. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in the title roles.
The film has a lot of laugh out loud moments. Especially through the eccentric nature of both leads. Whether its Tony's hard headed but uncultured nature or Don's particularities , the chemistry between the two is really off the charts. The film touches on many important concepts that still reverberate today, mainly in race relations and acceptance of sexuality. Farrelly and the real life son of Tony Lip do such a fine job writing a film that knows when to be funny and when to be serious.
I think the performances from both leads is also fantastic. We are about done with the year and I don't really care what other people say this should be getting nominations is a few categories at the Academy Awards. Was really surprised at how good this film was, as the trailers don't really show off the true excellence that this film was capable of. Urge everyone to go see it, about as good as a buddy road film will be.
The rest of my review is for the purpose of responding to stupid reviews of people who find a way to hate this movie because of what it isn't as opposed to what it is.
Does Green Book have everything perfectly documented about life as a black person in Ali's character, or life as a white person for Mortenseon's character? No. Does it perfectly encapsulate every person's time and experience traveling and living in the south or the north of America at that time and in those places? No. Does it property portray all friendships of white and black people? No. Does the film perfectly show how the police treat people in every instance in the north and in the south? No. Does it feature sad people living their sad lives and learning nothing to effectively encapsulate how terrible and hopelessly serious some issues can be? No. Does the movie strike me as having a groundbreaking quality that puts it as the first or definitively best at doing whatever new ambitious thing it's trying to do? No
From my standpoint, these kinds of shortcoming could be said about every single good movie. Even if a movie is groundbreaking, it isn't an excellent film because it was groundbreaking or record shattering. Green Book's purpose is to show the experience of two specific characters along with their friends and family as the main two characters get to know each other. The story as it is told is believable, entertaining, interesting and likeable. And that is exactly what it was trying to be and, in my opinion, that angel serves the film very well. I don't know how perfectly the film was at showing exactly what really happened. But If anyone expects to be able to take a film based on true events as the perfect infallible account, they are the with the issue as opposed to the film.
As for what the film didn't cover: If you want all the facts or potential ramifications or heartbreaks of other people in this time going about their lives, you're better off reading some books, looking up some facts, or watching some documentaries about the topics. Nothing can tell every avenue of every conceivable story with perfect detail and accuracy. And a 2 hour movie is far from the ideal way of even try such a task.
Movies like Green Book are meant to exist as entertaining peices of art. And that is exactly what I thought Green Book was, and what made it good. I highly recommend this film is that's the sort of thing you like.
WEAKNESSES: None for me. This is my favorite film of 2018!
For a basic plot summary, "Green Book" tells the real-life 1962 story of Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a renowned piano player embarking on a tour of the Deep South. His race--African American--might pose some issues, so he hires cocky tough-guy Tony Lipp (Viggo Mortensen) from the Bronx to be his driver. As the two set out on their journey, it at first seems like an Odd Couple type of relationship. But as they experience more of each other's company--as well as the racial injustices of the territory--they come to both rely on and perhaps learn something from the other.
This is a movie that really "sneaks up on you", so to speak. It starts off relatively straightforward and one could be forgiven for thinking it's maybe even a little slow. But that character development pays off in an enormous way, as by the end you'll be holding back tears (or failing to) after witnessing the bond these men form out on the road and in face of adversity.
For a movie like "Green Book" to work, the acting has to be spot-on, and it surely is here. You'd never guess this was the same Mortensen that was once the sword-wielding Aragorn in the "Lord of the Rings" franchise. He went all-in for this role, shaping both his voice and body to fit the part. Ali has slowly built up a fantastic career for himself, and there's nothing to stop that process here. The arc of his character provides most of the emotion of the film, and his scenes range from heartbreaking to hilarious.
Speaking of "hilarious", also consider that this film was directed by Peter Farrelly...yes, he of "Dumb & Dumber" fame! While seemingly an odd choice to helm such an emotional project, it proves to be EXACTLY the right decision, as the humor in the film goes a long way towards establishing rapport between the two leads. As deep as the "emotional stuff" goes (and it goes deep, to be sure), the comedy is easily just as well-done.
I haven't even mentioned the soundtrack yet, which is another integral "role" in the film. Whether it be Shirley himself or just the "on the road" type tunes, the "Green Book" soundtrack is one of the best I've experienced in quite some time. A great mix of jazz, piano, and orchestral sections.
As you can see, I think that perhaps the biggest reason why "Green Book" gets the full 10-star treatment from me is because it does a little bit of everything, and somewhat remarkably nails all those little areas to produce a masterpiece. The final compliment? The overall message of the film is a great one: that sometimes all it takes for two people to better understand each other (in this case it is black and white, but really it could be anything) is proximity. Had not fate drawn Dr. Shirley and Tony together, they would have spent the rest of their days likely stuck in their own little boxes. As it turned out, however, it took a road trip to cross those bridges and each man to learn a little from the other.
Great story, acting, direction, humor, music, and emotion. What more can a movie-goer ask for?