A Lot Of Right Chords Are Played In “Green Book”

“Green Book” is a film which chronicles the friendship between touring piano great Don Shirley and his driver Tony Vallelonga.  The two main roles are played by Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, respectively.  Peter Farrelly directed this script which he also co-wrote with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie.

This is another movie about an unlikely friendship crossing racial boundaries during the early 1960’s.  Don Shirley as a black pianist who decides to include the Deep South on his tour with the Don Shirley Trio.  He hires a nightclub bouncer known as Tony Lip to be his driver on an eight week trek as he plays in various venues where segregation was still the norm and his gift only went so far when it came to impressing the wealthy white denizens of states such as Kentucky and Alabama.

Both Ali and Mortensen were on top of their game when it came to the performances. Mortensen played his part with just the right mix of charm and crassness.  Ali was also compelling as the intellectual outcast from both his own culture and the society elites.  I am not sure if the real life men depicted actually became the friends shown here in this film, but it was still pretty fascinating to watch the relationship unfold onscreen.

There were some moments that were easily predicted, but the overall films still comes together very nicely.  There is likely quite a bit of creative license taken here, but the overall result makes those instances somewhat easy to shrug off. It could be interesting to read a more detailed biography of Dr. Shirley to see how close he actually had gotten to Vallelonga, if that is mentioned at all.

There is plenty of some great location shots.  This is also a road trip film where the two main character face many obstacles in their endeavor to complete the tour.

It was fun to see Sebastian Maniscalco in a supporting role where he actually had more to do than I expected.  The supporting cast playing Vallelonga’s family were expectedly loud, obnoxious, and still reasonably charming.  It was pretty sweet how much Vallelonga would demonstrate his love for his wife in the letters he was trying to compose chronicling his trip with Shirley.

It’s a pretty moving film and reminds the audience of the injustice of “Jim Crow” laws quite effectively.  It also often defies expectations as to how the relationship is going to develop between Vallelonga and Dr. Shirley.  Vallelonga may lack some polish, but he does well in a crisis.

In case anyone is wondering, the title refers to a publication that was designed to help traveling black people find motels and restaurants that would welcome them.

I had heard this was a good movie, and it turns out the mysterious they were right.  This is definitely one of the better movies of this year.

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