Movie Review: ‘Green Book’ Is Oddly The Feel Good Oscar Contender

There are a nice variety of stories coming out this year about people of color. And not just movies about people of color, but directed by directors that represent the films demographic. Movies from filmmakers like Spike Lee, Steve McQueen, Barry Jenkins, Alfonso Cuaron, and even Jon M. Chu have a chance at Oscar gold this year. More importantly, they are inspiring other filmmakers to make equally important and entertaining films about characters who are too often underserved on screen. 

One of the best of those films that I’ve seen this year is Peter Farrelly’s beautiful and heartwarming film, ‘Green Book’. Yes, I did write the name Peter Farrell’s and he has one of those Farrell’s brothers that directed movies like ‘Dumb & Dumber’ and ‘Kingpin’ back in the 90’s. This is a decidedly different kind of film, but no less hilarious. You will be laughing your ass off through much of the 130 minute running time. 

However, you might also be wiping tears out of your eyes by the end of this film. And those tears are 100% because you will fall in love with these characters. Overeating, prejudice, bullshit artist Italians in the 1960’s are not typically film leads in this day and age, but that’s exactly who Viggo Mortenson’s character, Tony Lip, really is. No more often do we see a story about a classically trained, rich, gay, black pianist traveling the southern states during the time of Jim Crow, but that is exactly what Mahershala Ali’s character, Don Shirley, really did. 

 Now, this movie might look like a reverse ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ or just another story about white folks getting past their prejudice to do something to help a black man, but it’s actually much more than that. The thing that makes this movie so good is the relationship between Tony and Don. It’s the way that we watch them grow because of their time together. It’s the way the movie illuminates the light of ignorance and prejudice, but never judges it’s own characters. Tony is clearly prejudice against anybody of color when the movie starts, but it doesn’t define his characters actions. His ignorance does. He is also illiterate and uneducated, but his ignorance in the face of someone different is his big problem. He’s got no hate for anybody, but it’s clear that his family is historically prejudice of anybody different then themselves. 

Yet, it’s the charismatic nature of Don Shirley that eventually wins Tony over and creates an unlikely friendship that would last the two of them a lifetime. So, if you are one of those true story buffs then this is the movie for you. Although, even if you could care less whether this is fact or fiction, this is likely the movie for you. It’s just such an audience friendly film that I wouldn’t be surprised if it manages some pretty long legs once people finally get wind of it. And you should get wind of it. It’s a wonderful character study about a black and a white man traveling together in the south, at a highly contentious point in historical race relations. It’s a film that will make you laugh and likely make you cry, but mostly it will entertain. 

I know there are a lot of movies fighting for your time this holiday weekend, but I’d strongly suggest you make it. This holiday is nicely stuffed with goods for you and your family. So, if you can only see one of the trio of outstanding choices this weekend then flip a couple of coins or stretch them out over the next few weeks. They are all worth seeing, but if you have the time then this is a don’t miss. 

Nathan Ligon

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