Movie Review: “Green Book”

You know when sometimes you’re watching a movie and the whole time you’re genuinely, truly enjoying yourself? The story is full of heart, the writing is nuanced and inspiring, and the actors are super talented with incredible chemistry? And you feel inspired by the story without any uncomfortable feelings that come with things being corny? That’s how I felt while watching Green Book.

Directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly (yes of the Dumb and Dumber Farrelly brothers – shout out to 401!) the film stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Maybe it’s because I’m a chord cutter and don’t see many commercials anymore but I only started to hear about this film because I actively monitor awards season news and it started to come up more and more – and after seeing it I anticipate there will be a bigger marketing push coming, given awards season and praise I’m seeing on social media.

The film is based on the true friendship of African-American classical pianist Don Shirley and Italian-American bouncer Tony Vollelonga. It’s 1962 and Shirley is about to embark on an eight-week concert tour in the Deep South and hires Vollelonga as his driver and security.  Now, there have been many films about African-American life in this time period and Green Book is one of the best. Like any good film it doesn’t shy away from showing the truth of what African-Americans had to deal with but it never crosses into “after school special” territory. It’s a testament to the writing team and to Ali and Vollelonga’s acting to still -very effectively- deliver their story without shoving it down our throats. I see Oscar nominations in their future and according to Wikipedia it has won every single award it has been nominated for so far.

Besides race, the film touches on things like personal identity and family. Some of my favorite scenes involved Vollelonga’s Italian-American family in their tiny Bronx apartment eating food. The 100% accurate attention to food in Italians’ lives is real. And who knew a Danish guy could play Italian so well? Fun fact: after watching the film I looked up the real life Tony Vollelonga and he found his way into acting thanks to Francis Ford Coppola.

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this holiday season that has a whole lot of heart and makes you feel like there might still be some good in this world, watch Green Book.

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