Our last Best Picture Academy award nomination finally cruises in. From being trapped on a roller coaster of B-movie comedies - Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Shallow Hal - Director Peter Farrelly finally hits a career high with Green Book. This uplifting
Oscar feature tells the real life story of Tony Lip - a working class, Italian-American bouncer hired by famed African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley to chauffeur him on his concert tour through the deep south during the 1960's.
Charming and thoroughly entertaining this road trip flick glides along effortlessly. Green Book is a whimsical step up from Farrelly - where he usually aims for the lowest common denominator gag this softer approach works like a treat. The film's accessible make up earns itself extra brownie points in yet another Oscar season full of heavy thinkers - which is largely down to the riveting chemistry between the two central characters.
A lively buddy comedy progressing into a relatively gentle racial drama, Green Book thrives in the happier moments. Tony Lip - a wise cracking, average joe is has time on his hands and applies for a job as a driver, when the nightclub he works at closes for a refurb. Fortunately for new employer Dr Shirley, when Lip claims to be "public relations" he is actually involved in professional hand throwing. Paying homage to Goodfellas, we are welcomed into his neighbourhood minus the revolvers, cocaine and gambling of course. His straight talking and uncomplicated way of thinking is soon criticised however by the far more civilised and sophisticated Dr. Don Shirley.
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali ignite alongside each other. Behind the wheel we have a loud mouth, larger-than-life schmuck with a lot to learn - in the back seat we have an aloof and finicky artist. Their personality clash is explosive, and Green Book takes us through a journey in more ways than one. We see glimmers of their friendship from the beginning - through Tony's eyes Dr Shirley appears snooty and nagging, however his stern outer shell is covering a warm and vulnerable interior. Tony exclaims "Why you breakin' my balls?" and Shirley sincerely replies "Because you can do better".
Green Book slightly overlooks the weighty racist themes embedded into its narrative. There is a sprinkle of poignant moments, particularly when the car conks out during the trip and Dr Shirley is faced by a field full of black cotton workers, whilst his white chauffer fixes the stricken car. Even so, the film feels pretty light and superficial and at times Farrelly doesn't dive deeply enough into the outrageous discrimination Shirley is forced to overcome. Though it's sure to slap a smile on your face, this blissful biopic is slightly one note.
For better or worse - this is an easy, breezy road-cum-buddy movie, interlaced with questions about racial and class prejudice. Green Book is fuelled by further outstanding performances by Ali and Mortensen - their unlikely friendship is the film's beating heart. Farrelly has a lot to say about racial stereotypes and role reversal, even if the message isn't always treated with the depth and consequence needed.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.