GREEN BOOK, the film is named from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a segregation-era road travel guidebook to help African-Americans dealing with racial discrimination issues and Jim Crow laws, such as whites-only garages, restaurants and hotels refusing services. This book (nicknamed ‘vacation without aggravation’) is used during the tour of the Deep South in the 1960s by Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and New York bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), who served as Shirley’s driver and security.
The film follows the protagonist Tony Lip as he takes a difficult new job in order to support his wife, Dolores (Linda Cardellini) and his two kids. The job is to chauffeur and protect Dr. Shirley as he tours the racial prejudiced deep south. It is a pretty country but not for the coloured folk there. It is a simple story but one is both extremely moving and relevant in today’s times. What makes the film totally winning is that it is a film about discovery, as each of the two main characters Tony and Dr. Shirley learn about each other, the people and ultimately about themselves.
As far as anti-racists films go, GREEN BOOK works because it captures the ugliness of racism without resorting to cheap theatrics and crowd pleasing dramatic setups as in the recent THE HATE U GIVE. Racism occurs when the guilty racist demonstrates the fact, unaware that the is doing so. This is demonstrated in the one scene where Tony hits an officer when he calls Tony a half-nigger.
There are many ‘best’ scenes in GREEN BOOK. My personal favourite is the hotel corridor scene where Dr. Shirley pleads Tony not to give up his job as his chauffeur and driver only to be corrected that he never intended to do so in the first place.
The 60’s period setting is captured by effective yet simple props like the vintage TV, the old telephone, wardrobe and the old vintage cars.
The film also demonstrates that a film’s climax need not always contain pyrotechnic explosions, super fight sequences or an exciting finish. GREEN BOOK closes nicely with a well-thought out conclusion.
Besides besides a Top 10 film, GREEN BOOK also contains Top 10 of the year performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT). Both actors are superb, Ali delivering a more controlled performance only letting all the emotions go in the one scene when his character walks out of the car in the pouring rain. Mortensen (of Danish origin) perfects Tony’s Italian mannerisms to a ‘T’, putting on physically the weight of the role. He captures the naivety and street smartness of his character.
GREEN BOOK won the Toronto International Film Festival’s most coveted prize of the People’s Audience Choice Award. Last year’s winner THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI also won the Best Picture Oscar. GREEN BOOK hopes and deserves the same honours. GREEN BOOK is not a good film but a great film.