By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) gives his best performance to date alongside Oscar winning actor Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) in the fascinating new movie, “Green Book”
from director Peter Farrelly (“Fever Pitch”).
The movie is loosely based on a true story. Mortensen stars as Frank Anthony Vallelonga, a blue-collar, hard-working Italian-American from New York, the Bronx.
Tony, aka “Tony Lip” has a lovely wife named Delores (Linda Cardellini, “Hunter Killer”) and a couple of kids. In addition to working as a garbageman he also has a side gig as a bouncer at the Copacabana.
But when the Copa closes for a couple of months for renovations, Tony is out of work and in need of money.
When his boss gives him a heads up about a temporary job opening as a chauffeur, Tony decides to check it out. Turns out, the job entails driving the world-renowned, black, jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Ali) to his concerts which include performances in parts of the deep South. Keep in mind that this takes place in 1962 during the Jim Crow Era.
And we know Tony has his personal biases and opinions about black people having seen him throw away two glasses that a couple of black repairmen drank from while at his house.
But Tony needs the money and figures, he can do the job. Plus, Dr. Shirley, could use a tough guy like him to prevent any trouble that may arise when he performs in front of all those rich, white folks.
The title of the movie, “Green Book” refers to a popular handbook called “The Negro Motorist Green Book” which was published in 1936.
It listed friendly businesses such as gas stations, restaurants and hotels that catered to African-Americans unlike white-owned establishments that would often refuse service to them.
As Dr. Shirley and Tony embark on this whirlwind trip, they are so polar opposite you wonder if they can last 10 minutes together. Dr. Shirley is wealthy, sophisticated, an impeccable dresser and has performed twice for the sitting president. Tony is brash and kind of sloppy.
Yet it takes several situations like being pulled over by the police as well as denied the right to eat-- even at some of the places Dr. Shirley is performing—that they begin to slowly understand each other’s differences and forge an unlikely friendship.
There are moments in “Green Book” that come across as somewhat pat and lightweight. The film doesn’t delve deeply enough into the systematic racism that is at the root of some Dr. Shirley’s issues.
Still, the gripping performances from Ali and Mortensen elevate “Green Book” from being just another road weary dramedy, to something rather special.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For "GREEN BOOK"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.