Based on true events, Green Book tells the story of renowned piano player, Don Shirley and his driver, the loud-mouthed Bronx-native Tony Vallelonga. It’s the 1960’s and Shirley’s tour through the Jim Crow South is one the African American musician can’t make alone. Tony’s quick fists and no-nonsense attitude is exactly what lands the nightclub bouncer the job. The two set off on an eight-week journey, from the planes of Iowa to the deep-fried Kentucky.
Armed with the ‘Green Book’, stating where colored travelers can stay and dine, the unlikely pair find themselves confronted with more than just the usual bumps in the road. From assault in local bars to a night behind bars, the racial segregation rears its ugly head everywhere they pull over.
Viggo Mortensen’s transformed his appearance to a point of no-recognition to play Tony, earning him a best actor Oscar nomination. Not only did he put on a considerable amount of the weight, the mannerisms and Bronx accent are captured spot on, while at times bordering on the theatrical.
Mahershala Ali portrays the snobbish, conservative Shirley with great allure. From the stiff walk, even when intoxicated, to the subtle attempts to work on Tony’s diction. The chemistry between both actors is warm and results in noteworthy scenes all across the board.
While the plot greatly revolves around the issues of racism and ignorance, between the main characters and society as a whole, Green Book manages to remain a feel-good movie that takes the viewer on a journey proving that humanity prevails.
Yet, the story could have been executed with more subtly, such as the scene where Dr. Shirley finds himself confronted with a field of African-American farmers, while he himself is chauffeured from fancy establishment to establishment is very on the nose. However, the light-hearted scenes that follow provide a much-needed balance, resulting in a movie worth a watch, that will leave you feeling light yet contemplative.
Catch the multi-Oscar nominated Green Book at Macrobert Arts Centre until the 21st of February.