“The Green Book” (Wikipedia), a guide produced from 1936-64 in the United States to provide advice to those travelling in the racially segregated South of America. This was necessary to prevent harassment or much worse…
“Tony Lip” (Viggo Mortensen) is an Italian nightclub bouncer dealing out any necessary violence as required to restore order. When not cracking heads he is quite the family man with kids and an adoring wife “Dolores” (Linda Cardellini).
The family live in a tightly held neighborhood, with the stereotypical large Italian family group. Following visiting African American repairmen drinking from glasses in his house, Lip carefully places them in the bin. Racism more by habit than any considered intent.
When the club closes for refurbishment finances are tight and Lip looks for work as a driver. When he is selected to accompany a famous pianist on his travels through the Southern states, the stage is set for a odd couple road trip.
“Dr. Donald Shirley” (Mahershala Ali) is everything Tony is not, educated in the finer things of life and society. A hugely talented musician, considerate of those around him and yes, not white.
Despite being a talented classical pianist, Shirley was persuaded to pursue more popular music, as god forbid a “black” man on a classical stage would upset the world order. This was a time when despite playing for the “great and good” in the South, he could not eat in the same restaurant/club where he was performing, nor use the facilities.
As any seasoned cinema goer would expect, the two characters, fall out, make friends and find common ground. Most notably around Tony’s fumbled mundane letters home to his wife, to which Shirley adds romance and finesse. Albeit Tony adding “kiss the kids”, at the end, which as Shirley says is like clanging a cow bell at the end of Tchaikovsky’s 7th.
Whilst there have been accusations of “whitewashing” the story, this is designed as a feel good movie albeit with a message. However, boundaries are sufficiently pushed to illustrate the ridiculous yet dangerous situations Shirley places himself, all in the name of advancing equal rights.
Whilst the film hits many of the expected beats with characters bonding and finding common humanity, this is achieved with some charm. The two main actors considerable acting ability and obvious chemistry enhancing the thoughtful screenplay.
The film is directed by Peter Farrelly who is better known for producing comedies, here toning down those tendencies to create a touching story, which cynics will no doubt find fault with.
The film is based on a true story, with brief research indicating this holds relatively true to real events, albeit with the time spent together compressed to fit a two hour movie
In our current political climate any movie leaving you with an element of hope, that people left to their own devices get on fine, gets our vote.
Honoured as best film at the Oscars for 2019, always subjective but arguably fills a need in 2019 and is highly recommended