This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. If you would like to keep up with our content, click here.
Synopsis: When Tony Lip, a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, and Linda Cardellini
Writers: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly
Director: Peter Farrelly
Rating: PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 130mins
For as long as there have been films, there have been road trip films, often pinning opposites together so they can overcome each other’s differences. Green Book is another road trip film along those lines but is better than most. Based on a true story, this film follows an Italian-American bouncer named Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a famed Black pianist named Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) from Manhattan to the Deep South for a concert tour. Over the course of their journey across the Deep South, Vallelonga and Shirley confronted such topics as racism, class inequality, and cultural inequality along with their own misconceptions and prejudices about one another in a compelling and often hilarious way. The many scenes featuring just the two of them in a car and their different personalities were a delight to watch together.
Inspiration from Vallelonga’s family can be seen throughout the film, from his real family members appearing in the film to his son co-writing the script. It was easy to see that the film was made with love. Vallelonga was pretty much out in the open but the unveiling of all of Shirley’s layers was truly sad to watch. However, underneath all that sadness was a surprisingly funny script full of sharp dialog and plenty of strong moments for either man and some that will surely be crowd-pleasers. It may not have seemed that these two men were right for each other at the start, as what happens in most of these films, but this all changed by the end. Though this was inevitable for many reasons, it wasn’t any less fun to watch.
The best part of the film was easily the performances from Mortensen and Ali as Vallelonga and Shirley respectively. Road trip films require chemistry and they had it in spades and were compelling to watch. The character of Vallelonga could easily have been a New York stereotype, however, Mortensen gives him some much needed depth and humanity. Sure, he may have had a funny accent but he was much more than that. Ali was equally strong, playing a much different role. He was more reserved and serious which wore away as he let down his walls and his truly heartbreaking backstory was revealed.
Overall, this was an excellent road trip dramedy that was fun, hilarious, and sometimes emotional to watch thanks to a sharp script, great direction, and incredible performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali that will surely be a crowd-pleaser.