Release Date: November 21, 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material)
“Green Book” takes its title from a directory once used by persons of color to locate establishments in which they were welcomed and in which they could feel relatively “safe” in parts of America in the 1950s and ‘60s.
The book comes in handy when Italian-American Tony (Viggo Mortensen) is hired to be the driver for African-American concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a two-month journey for several performances ranging from New York to the Deep South.
Director and co-writer Peter Farrelly is to be commended for his vision and the artistry with which he brings this story, based on true events, to an audience. While there is a sense of it being formulaic, that this sensitive handling of race relations in the 1960s (that is disappointingly and troublingly manifest to this day) is delivered by a filmmaker best known for screwball comedies (“There’s Something About Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber” among them) makes “Green Book” even more surprisingly respectable.
Both Mortensen and Ali convey broad character arcs, and each turn-in solid and believable portrayals of very different individuals who ultimately find common ground with respect and dignity. Linda Cardellini is also terrific as Tony’s patient and loving wife, Dolores.
Despite its penchant for stereotyping and its tendency to over-dramatize poignancy, the film takes us to a time and place of the past that helps us better understand our present – and for some, may even provide motivation to improve the future.
With “Green Book” being so well-received by audiences and critics, including being named Best Film by the National Board of Review, look for it to be prominent during Academy Awards season.