Green Book (2018)

green book poster 2018 movie academy award
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 7/10

Strong acting by Mortensen and Ali

Cliche, dull, unrealistic, white savior syndrome

Movie Info

Movie Name: Green Book

Studio: Participant Media

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 11, 2018 (Toronto International Film Festival)/November 16, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

green book mahershala ali viggo mortensen throne

Wakanda forever?

The holidays are coming and Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) finds himself out of work.  When he is offered a job by an African-American pianist named “Doc” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), he finds himself forced to take it.  Frank’s job is to take Don and his Don Shirley Trio on a tour of the Deep South and keep him safe.  Don and Frank both have prejudices, but they might have to learn to work together.

Directed by Peter Farrelly, Green Book adapts the story of Tony Vallelonga and his relationship with pianist Don Shirley.  The film was released to mixed to positive reviews but soon faced backlash due to claims from the Shirley family that they were not consulted on the film and claims that the presentation of race relations portrays the “white savor” motif.  The film surprised people by winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) with nominations for Best Actor (Viggo Mortensen) and Best Film Editing.

green book kentucky fried chicken mahershala ali

Kentucky Fried Chicken…the great unifier

I have to say that I wasn’t excited about Green Book.  Watching the trailer, I could peg exactly what kind of movie it was, how the plot would go, and the movie’s pacing.  Watching the film, I was pretty much right.  It does have a couple moments, but it is long, slow, and feels desperate to please the audience.

There is nothing really “wrong” with Green Book, but it is pretty much a Hallmark movie.  It tells a story (stress “story” since it is allegedly from one person’s perspective), and if the story were 100% true, it would be a nice story about two people from different perspectives coming together.  It feels like a story and does champion the “white savior” motif.  Mahershala Ali’s character even says he doesn’t fit in with the African-American culture or the white culture…but by the end of the movie, he’s having dinner with a bunch of Italians like a member of the family.  The dialogue is cheesy and over-the-top and both characters are constantly learning lessons on acceptance in an unrealistic and sped up time-frame.

green book jail scene kennedy viggo mortensen mahershala ali

You called in Kennedy? That works?

I cannot fault the actors who do elevate the film.  Both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali give the performance all they can.  They do bring humanity and depth to the roles which are almost cardboard cutouts.  I like Linda Cardellini’s role in the movie, but most of the other characters are so underdeveloped that no one has any real definition.

The movie is also rather bland in appearance.  I commend the direction on some of the big shots with multiple vintage cars and sets, but it has been done some many times in other better films that it doesn’t make this film very distinguishable.

green book mahershala ali viggo mortensen restaurant

First rule about YMCA…don’t talk about YMCA

A ******Spoiler Alert****** exists for this section of the review.  Regardless what you think of the story, an event occurs that seems more unrealistic than the relationship between a rather racist Italian and an African-American man in 1962 is Doc is revealed to be gay or bisexual in a scene at a YMCA.  Mortensen bails out the situation and never mentions or judges him on it.  They even share a hotel room after the event.  It just seems very unrealistic and open minded for a character who is shown to be very closed minded in a time when it was even more taboo.

Green Book will go down as one of the worst Best Picture choices.  It was an easy choice and it was also maybe the blandest of the films.  The race aspects are the film are troubling, but that overrode the fact that the film is just really dull…and the story pretty much ends up like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with everyone accepting everyone over a holiday meal.  You have the story forced down your throat (a great example of this is the bad traffic stop in the South vs the good traffic stop in the North where police just want to help with flat tires and do not judge).  A bad movie can be good, but worse than a bad movie to me is an average movie…and Green Book is just that:  average.

Related Links:

The 91st Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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