GREEN BOOK - movie review by Malcolm Waite

Green Book is a film about an Italian bouncer driving a black pianist through the Deep South on a very dangerous concert tour. This film stars Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Let me first get into my flaws with the film.

First of all, this film is a good film. I will say that and first get into my flaws with it. My main flaw with this film is its focus.  What I mean by this is it chooses to focus on the character of Tony Lip. Now I understand why they have done this, and it is clearly because one of the writers and producers of this movie is Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Tony is a decently interesting character, but by far and away the best character in this film is Don Shirley, played to perfection by Mahershala Ali. The best scene in this movie is when our two title characters have stopped in the rain, and Don walks out of the car and he exclaims “If I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, than what am I?” It is beautifully shot and edited. And these are the most interesting aspects of the film. It is what elevates it beyond your typical movie about racism. 

 Now let me delve more into Tony Lip. He is actually a really well written character. If I explained his arc out to you, on paper, it sounds terrible. However when you are watching the movie because of the Viggo Mortensen’s excellent performance. He becomes this man. He is slightly bigoted and while this may sound like a trope, he is kind of a lovable dope. He is a family man. And also there is some great dialogue. While I thought The Favourite should have won best original screenplay, I wasn’t screaming when Green Book won.  Sure, I was pretty disappointed but I won’t say this movie had a bad script. And I believe this is because of Don Shirley. He has some phenomenally quotable lines and you really by his relationship with Tony Lip. I think for this movie, it would have been better if it just left with best original screenplay and best supporting actor, and we’ll get into that later. The only reason I am very slightly angry Green Book won is because The Favourite, First Reformed, and Roma all had better screenplays.

Next, let me delve into the slew of controversies, starting from most minor to really major. First, Viggo Mortensen said the N word in an interview. Ok, this was stupid, sure, he was saying it to prove a point but you just shouldn’t say it. Next, it seems to escalate, with old allegations coming out against the director of this film (Peter Farrelly) flashing his penis to people on the sets of his movies as a joke. Pretty bad, but it gets worse, next Don Shirley’s family claimed the whole movie was a ton of lies and Don Shirley was never Tony Lip’s friend, just associate.  Well, that defeats the whole purpose of this movie. Finally, by far the worst of all, a deleted tweet from Nick Vallelonga came out in which he agreed with Donald Trump that when the twin towers fell Muslims were cheering in New Jersey. This man is Tony Lip, the main character of the movie, this is his son.  This may mean his father was more racist than we thought.

 Now, on to the whole reason I am now reviewing this movie: the best picture win. I will say this, this is a very good movie, yet it does not deserve to win best picture. A Star Is Born, BlaKkKlansman, The Favourite, even Black Panther deserved it more than this. But that doesn’t mean this movie is bad.

One last thing before I give my grade, I will not take into account the historical inaccuracies, just the final product. While it may seem like I did that for Bohemian Rhapsody, that’s not true, I just graded the awfully bland script.  However, this film has very good dialogue, is directed well, is edited very well (not enough people talk about how well done the editing is) and is phenomenally acted.

 

Grade: With Two great performances and a pretty well written script, yet still can’t escape some civil rights era movie conventions, I will give Green Book an A-.

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