(Originally reviewed for The LAMB Devours the Oscars – original post here)
Director: Peter Farrelly
Genre: Biography, Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 130 Minutes
Main Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov, Mike Hatton, Don Stark, Tom Virtue, Brian Stepanek
Plot: Inspired by a true friendship in 1962, Green Book tells the story of Tony Lip, a club bouncer who accepts a job driving pianist Don Shirley on a tour through the Deep South, in the days when African Americans were reliant on the Green Book in order to find accommodation where they were welcome.
My Thoughts: In my painfully long wait for Green Book to get it’s UK release, I read many a review. A lot gave praise to the movie – but not enough for its attention during this year’s award season. I almost felt like a hardened movie critic when I headed to the cinema last week but let me cut the chase – Green Book very quickly melted my cold heart.
It’s impossible to look past the racism shown, and as always with movies like this, it’s difficult and sickening to think that this is what life was actually like – or in fact still is in some places around the globe. Human beings can be just the worst sometimes. Cutting through the seriousness though is a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship. Tony is rough around the edges, he’s quick to anger, he isn’t well spoken and at highbrow events, he sticks out like a sore thumb. Don is the complete opposite in every single way, and yet as the two spend more time together their friendship feels so genuine.
I can understand the frustration around Green Book’s attention. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, the plot is predictable without any surprises. It relies on the performances of the two leads (why is Mahershala Ali up for Supporting Actor?!) to carry it, but they do a stunning job. If it wins the Oscar later this month, I wouldn’t be mad.
Best Bit: I’ve seen it already at least 100 times in the trailer that my cinema has been flaunting in my face for at least 5 months, but the fried chicken scene never fails to make me laugh. What was even better was that it was a recurring gag in the movie – although I think I was the only one who laughed out loud when it was served at that fancy dinner in honour of Don Shirley.
Worst Bit: This is minor I know, but the only thing that niggled me was how quickly Tony went from throwing away glasses simply because a black man had drunk from them, to happily attending an interview to drive Don around for 8 weeks. It felt like either clunky writing or a chunk of the movie being edited out before the final release.
Fun Trivia: The pizza scene is drawn from real life: Nick Vallelonga said Tony Lip used to order a whole, unsliced pizza pie, fold it and eat it. Upon hearing the anecdote, Viggo Mortensen insisted they try to fit it into the movie. Peter Farrelly protested, saying there were enough funny eating scenes but agreed to try it. When the crew burst out laughing, he agreed to leave the scene in.
(Note to every movie director – you can NEVER have enough funny eating scenes)
My Rating: 4 and a half huge pizzas that Tony Lip folded in half and ate. What a man, ladies and gentlemen.