Peter Farrelly has been known best for making ridiculous comedies, such as Dumb and Dumber – and its sequel – and There’s Something About Mary. Howbeit, with his latest work Green Book, the filmmaker skillfully showed a completely different narrative.
Inspired by real events and set against the background of the 1960’s USA, Green Book tells the story of Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali: Moonlight, House of Cards), a black pianist of immense talent, and his personal chauffeur, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen: The Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises), who is an Italian-American. Shirley decides to go on a tour with his band, to the deep South, where racial segregation is still a common practice. Don is eager to hire Tony as his driver; the former employee of the prestigious Copacabana club, a strong and outspoken individual, seems like the perfect man for the job, and after being promised a huge amount of money, the man agrees to the two-month tour with the pianist.
Photo © Universal Pictures
Don’ and Tony’s different backgrounds, with major differences even when it comes to everyday matters, not only prove to be a fertile base for jocularity, but also for a conflict of personas that permanently impacts their lives. Both characters are victims of lesser or greater limitations, resulting from the widespread racism and in Tony’s case, also from a lack of education. Green Book adheres to the philosophy that we must raise the standards of behaviour; as Don states in the film, “You never win with violence, you only win when you maintain your dignity.” These eloquent words become exceedingly significant in the film, and yet they only apply to one of Green Book’s many dimensions. Through the story, Farrelly tackles not only the subjects of inequality and discrimination, but also the topics of individuality, of finding a place where one belongs and how vital it is to respect one’s own and also other’s rights. The well-written script continuously exudes great subtlety and tactfulness.
Photo © Universal Pictures
The pace of Green Book is excellent in itself; the action never drags, so the audience isn’t bored, not even for a moment, while the clever layout of the narrative threads still allows them to really make an impression. The film flows beautifully, often accompanied by Don Shirley’s own stunning music which Kris Bowers, who wrote the score, himself transcribed and performed. The narrative is fairly predictable, but that is not at all bothersome, mainly due to the smart writing and the cast. The two leads’ performances are simply exquisite – Mahershala Ali is extraordinary in the role of the charming, yet troubled pianist. It is also clear that Viggo Mortensen fully immersed himself in the role of the Italian American driver; as a result, he created one of his most engaging and credible characters to date.
All the elements in Green Book fall perfectly in place, and the moral that comes from it is delivered in a particularly unobtrusive and credible way. The film makes a viewer reflect on humanity and empathise with Tony and Don’s characters, while still leaving the audience with a pleasant aftertaste.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna