CAPSULE: In 1962 a pot-bellied tough guy, played by Viggo Mortensen, agrees to act as chauffer and bodyguard for a great black jazz and classical musician (Mahershala Ali) for a performance tour of engagements in the Deep South. The bodyguard was needed because the will be in areas where it is very dangerous to be black. Each will get more out of the tour than he expected. It is all formula, but it is likable formula. The film is based on a true story. Director: Peter Farrelly; Writers: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
As will probably come as a surprise to few filmgoers, there really was a Green Book during the three decades, 1936 to 1966, officially titled THE NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN-BOOK. At that time it was extremely dangerous for a black automobile driver to travel in the American Deep South. A black person could easily be murdered on sight with the killer and/or his friends having no fear of punishment. Much like a Triple-A Tour Book, it would tell the reader where it was safe to travel and where it was or was not safe to have a driving excursion. The book THE GREEN BOOK shows up in something like three references in the script. There are three quick mentions of THE GREEN BOOK, which indeed was probably what Tony and Don used for a guide, but which gets little mentioned in the film.
The plot is straightforward enough. It is 1962 and Tony Lip (played by Viggo Mortensen) is out of work. He is a bouncer at a Manhattan bar, but the bar is closing for a couple of months, and Tony needs work. Through a mix-up he meets classical and jazz prodigy Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) who is looking to hire someone, but not for the job Tony was expecting. Don is a great and famous black musician. His trio is planning a tour of engagements, including a leg in the Deep and dangerous South. These are places where race bigotry rules and the life of a black man is little cheaper than the price of a bullet. So the two (and two more musicians) head off for what is likely to be a dangerous trip.
The two mix like oil and water--precisely what one would expect from a road film or a buddy movie. But what will come as precisely no surprise is that the picayune, snobbish black intellectual and the lowbrow white tough guy soon break through the attitude barrier and concentrate on what they have in common. The film follows a very familiar formula, but one that works.
It is a impressive to see how much Mortensen had gained in growing a pot belly. He no longer looks like a character out of LORD OF THE RINGS like his Aragorn. I rate GREEN BOOK a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/green_book
What others are saying: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6966692/reference
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper