Green Book (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 30, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

Green Book is a feel-good movie, and it works on that level.

Green Book is "inspired by a true story," but it's not real. For better or worse, one has to suspend his disbelief.

This is not to say it doesn't entertain; it often does. It also avoids actuality, although it's loosely based on actual experience. It pulls its punches. It's entertainment that avoids things that might offend - like reality.

Some of the setting in Green Book is Deep South-lite. The story occurs in 1962. Two years later in 1964, Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were in Mississippi.

But Green Book doesn't go near vicious racism and brutality. The two Northern characters are able to scram away from anything really dangerous.

It is the film's right to do so, but the real world lurks just off camera.

However, once you dismiss the real world, the film works on its own terms. It's predictable and contrived, but it's effective entertainment.

The quality that makes it work is it has heart. Despite dialogue and scenes that are spun out of cheese cloth, Green Book has moments of true sentiment. These moments redeem the film's flaws. They are affecting.

Green Book is the story of an odd couple on the road. Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is hired to drive pianist Doc Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a tour across the country ending in the Deep South. Tony is a scuffling, semi-literate, macho Italian. Doc is an effete, cultured, alienated African-American. Of course, it's a perfect pair for bonding. They evolve together.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali create a formidable chemistry as the wayward travelers. [The fingers and stature of Kris Bowers help Ali simulate the musician. And watch the end credits to see who sings Lonesome Road during them.] Mortensen and Ali carry the film over its bumpy road. Linda Cardinellini contributes favorably as Tony's wife.

Director Peter Farrelly wants to please, and the actors serve him well. His direction lacks subtlety, but the actors give some nuance to their broad characters.

The first part of Green Book is like outtakes from Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys. It's synthetic. But when they hit the road, it picks up. Some of the set pieces work, and others don't. When Doc is guiding Tony in letter writing, it's hard to accept that the man who spells "dear" as "deer" is going to be able to spell "experiencing." That's when suspension of disbelief has to take over.

But when the characters show humanity one doesn't have to suspend anything.

In Green Book, the humanity prevails.

© 2000-2018 Tony Macklin