Unlike any road trip movie you are ever likely to see, Green Book is a near perfect movie. This is no Driving Miss Daisy, regardless of what you may hear. Rather, this is a man caught between two worlds, worlds unfamiliar to nearly everyone. As a character says, to be Dr. Shirley and perform in the South in 1962,”requires more than genius, it requires courage.” Still, Green Book is also much more than a flick about discrimination in the South. Tony Lip is poorly educated and prejudiced, but he teaches Dr. Shirley much about life. Education comes in many forms as both parties find out. Very few TMJ reviews get 5 Gavels but this one earns it, as much for its humor as its pathos. It receives an 82% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a 92% Audience score.
Tony is a bouncer at the Copa. The club shuts down for two months for repairs and Tony needs short-term work. Dr. Shirley’s trio is about to embark on an eight week tour through the Midwest and Deep South and seeks a driver. The interview does not go well, but they “need” each other, for different reasons. As they depart, Tony is handed the Green Book which advises blacks where they can stay and eat in the South. Tony is about to discover discrimination and Dr. Shirley is about to discover Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Viggo Mortensen put on lots of weight to play Tony Lip. His performance as the street-smart Italian-protector of Dr. Shirley is one of the best of the year. Equally wonderful is Mahershala Ali as the classically trained, but isolated Dr. Shirley. You will not find actors playing off each other better than these two. Both will surprise you. Linda Cardellini of ER fame is Tony’s wife. Her part is small but essential to the message.
Mortensen caused an uproar when he used the “unforgivable” word in an interview. He apologized and the furor has died, but some wonder if it will be held against him. Hopefully, it won’t be held against the movie. As the critic from the San Francisco Chronicle says, there is “a sense of something magical happening . . .” This is based on a true story, and what a wonderful story it is. That such different people can end up such good friends is a Christmas gift to all of us. Take your own road trip to find Green Book, it’s well worth it!