Green Book


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Mortensen and Ali in Green Book
"Mortensen has gained weight. He plays Tony with confidence." | Photo: Courtesy of Toronto Film Festival

Italians in New York never lost their ethnicity. Proud and loud, especially in the early Sixties where this film is set, they avoided the expected Mafia influence in favour of something darker. Skin colour perhaps?

Tony Lipp (Viggo Mortensen) works as a bouncer at the Copacabana. When they close for refurbishment he loses his job for as long as it takes and picks up another as a driver for Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a black classical pianist due to embark upon a tour of the Southern states.

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Everyone knows, even Tony who doesn’t think much outside the box, that accompanying a black man on a tour of the South is asking for trouble. Even in New York colour is an issue. Tony doesn’t dig too deep into that stuff. He takes people as they are. He has a wife and kid. Shirley comes from somewhere else. His apartment is like an antique shop. Even his music is different. He’s what they call 'a class act' as long as you’re not a Little Richard fan.

The film becomes a road trip but not a series of punch-ups or mindless racial attacks as predicted from the start. Tony feels at home in a brawl. Discussing the subtleties of race and immigration from a Mediterranean viewpoint is more of a challenge.

The bond between the men grows, the one depending upon the other and the other depending upon himself. The Doc is the most interesting. His courage is understated and yet his life remains a mystery. Tony wonders (silently) when the Copa will be ready. Shirley believes that art can change the world. He includes Nat King Cole who toured, like him, in Klan country and came home stronger, or at least intact.

Coming home intact seems to be the way it was, the way it must be. It’s not even a secret, It’s a little victory.

Mortensen has gained weight. He plays Tony with confidence. His confusion with the piano player is understandable. Ali never drops his guard and yet they will always stand apart, together and alone, the Italian immigrant and the African.

Shirley makes things happen. Tony wants to. Is the movie a journey, a thriller, a family saga?

It’s more and it’s less.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2019
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Green Book packshot
An Italian-American is hired as a driver for a world-class black pianist on a concert tour of the Deep South.
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Director: Peter Farrelly

Writer: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Don Stark, PJ Byrne, Craig DiFrancia, Sebastian Maniscalco, Brian Stepanek, Nick Vallelonga, Daniel Greene, Iqbal Theba, Jenna Laurenzo, Joe Cortese, Tracy Brotherton, Martin Bats Bradford, Tom Virtue, Linda Cardellini

Year: 2018

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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