By Ryan Walukonis
With Oscar season now behind us, it seems fitting to take a look at what the Academy chose as the years best movie, Green Book. It had been crushing it throughout the award season, picking up 49 awards on 86 nominations prior to Hollywood’s biggest night where it walked away with three awards on five nominations including the coveted Best Picture. But enough about the accolades, none of that matters if the movie isn’t enjoyable. Director Peter Farrelly has never been much of an award magnet. With such critically praised films as Dumb and Dumber and The Three Stooges, no one exactly looked to him to create brilliant works of art. This all changed with the creation of what may go down as his Mona Lisa, Green Book, which he wrote, produced, and directed.
Based on the real life of Dr. Don Shirley, an African American pianist who played in the 1960s, Green Book follows his concert tour from New York City to the deep south where segregation was extremely prominent. He enlists the help of unrefined Italian family man Tony “lip” Vallelonga in case any trouble should arise on his trip. Dr. Shirley, played by the wonderfully talented Mahershala Ali, takes his profession very seriously and warily hires Tony, played by the equally talented acting veteran Viggo Morgenstein, as his driver and bodyguard. At first, they seem to be polar opposites. One a rough speaking New York Italian bouncing from job to job and the other an eloquently speaking and extremely gifted concert pianist. They both seem to know their place in the world and live in relative ignorance of each others culture. But on their journey, the lines between elegance and lack of class, high society and ordinary folk, black and white soon blur as they are brought together at the same time that the racism of the south tries to tear them apart.
I had heard lots of praise before seeing the film by critics and moviegoers alike; however, I was a little hesitant at first. There was no doubt in my mind that it would be a great piece of cinema, but upon reading the description, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep my eyes open long enough to enjoy it. I mean two guys in a car on a road trip down the country doesn’t exactly sound like a thrill ride. Boy was I wrong. The comedy of seeing these men from opposite sides of the metaphorical street interact makes for a joyous journey, amplified by the fantastic chemistry between the two skillful leads. There were almost no points in the movie where I didn’t have a smile on my face. Green Book is a feel-good movie; there is no other way of putting it. In the social climate of today, a movie where people can get along despite their differences is not only welcomed but needed. It’s fantastically acted, the alluring style of the 60s is beautifully presented (as well as the not so beautiful themes of racism), and the story is captivating beyond belief. Even if you don’t think you are a drama person, I would highly recommend giving it a try. At the very least, you will leave with a smile.