Friday, November 30, 2018


Rated:  PG-13

STARS: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
DIRECTOR: Peter Farrelly
GENRE:  Drama

Odd couples in film have made for some intriguing pairings. Harold And Maude...Lars And The Real Girl...and Fay Wray in King Kong, perhaps the oddest couple of them all!  Now we have rough-hewn Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen)--a hot tempered Italian nightclub bouncer, paired with the stoic and refined black musician, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), in Green Book--a retelling of how the two of them ventured into the heart of the deep south in 1962, when racial segregation was still alive and rearing its ugly head. 

Vallelonga's son , Nick, who co-wrote the script, indicates that the events portrayed were based on fact. His dad, known as "Tony Lip," was hired to be Shirley's driver and subsequent bodyguard on a concert tour performed by The Don Shirley Trio, a name that may be familiar to music lovers of a certain age. Shirley was the consummate piano virtuoso, his brilliant talent literally shooting from his fingers. And yet he was subjected to the indignity and insanity of being the featured performer at many of these upscale clubs and venues, and not allowed to dine in their restaurant or use the restroom. He had to go somewhere that catered to "colored folk."

Mortensen gives a cliched but nonetheless affable--and in the end endearing--portrayal of Tony Lip, who starts off being prejudiced at the beginning of the film but grows through his adventure of observing the scope of racism in America first-hand, that dirty little chapter of our past that still hasn't all come out in the wash.

Ali's controlled performance, dictated by the character of the man he's portraying, still allows him to shine when the rare moment of letting off steam with Tony comes about. 

My only knock on Green Book is its length--2 hours, 10 minutes--which could have been shortened if not for all the the background stuff on Tony and his family in the beginning. I kept thinking this is a story about the two men and their relationship, so why aren't we getting to it?  But as it winds down, we see the importance of family during the holidays, and the ending is like a modern day It's A Wonderful Life--it's that heartwarming!     

You're going to wonder if it was actually Mahershala Ali playing the piano, because it looks like he is. (And if he were, he'd be in the wrong profession right now!) It's actually the fingers of film composer Kris Bowers "grafted" onto Ali's arms. They do wonders with surgery these days.

Grade:  A -

I love it when I'm right! And I knew, the minute I saw the previews of Green Book that it would be 'the feel good movie of the year.' (And I'm so glad Tim—who resisted seeing it at first—changed his mind!) The first thing that hit me was how much weight Viggo Mortensen gained in order to be an authentic 'Tony Lip.' (Shades of Robert Di Niro gaining 40 pounds to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.) Both actors in this disparate duo deserve Oscars. Sadly, they'll probably both get nominated and thereby cancel out each other's chances of winning.

I usually can find something to carp about in the movies we review. This one presents a real challenge for me. I loved everything about it. Especially the way each character slowly accepts their obvious differences and a mutual respect—even love—evolves.

My movie companion helped me find a teeny weeny flaw, i.e. too many in-the-car scenes. But some of them were such gems—i.e. sharing Kentucky Fried Chicken—that I forgave the claustrophobic redundancy.

I want to mention one of the Italian family members played by Sebastian Maniscalco.  I highly recommend any of his stand-up specials (Aren't You Embarrassed?) on Netflix. A truly funny fellow.

Grade A


  1. Thanks to both reviewers, Timmy & Jill, for these favorable reviews of Green Book. I too thought it was an excellent film and that both Mortensen (truly a versatile actor) and Ali deserve accolades for their acting. I did feel good at the end of the movie, unlike so many others nowadays. This movie really made me realize why so many black Americans carry around anger in their auras. I remember thinking that Dr. Shirley's treatment would make anyone angry. Black Americans have carried this anger with them and each generation has inherited and embraced it. This realization really added a whole other dimension to the depth of this movie aside from the light moments and the truly wonderful inspiring piano playing. Loved it!