Not just any road trip movie. A golden adventure.
Direction (Peter Farrelly), Screenplay (Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, Nick Vallelonga), Cast (Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini), Length (130 minutes), Rating (PG-13)
Nominated for five Oscars, four BAFTAs and five Golden Globes, winning three including Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), ‘Green Book’ is a beautifully crafted cinematic escape that has also collected the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture. Believe the hype!
In NYC 1962, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is a nightclub bouncer until the club closes for renovations during the last two months of the year. This happens at the same time as pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) begins auditioning chauffeurs to drive him on a concert tour across the American Mid-West and Deep South for around eight weeks.
As a black man, Shirley will also require protection during his time in the southern United States. Protection that a nightclub bouncer, for example, would be able to provide.
Despite initially declining, Shirley convinces Vallelonga that he is the only person capable of holding the position as his driver and bodyguard and Vallelonga accepts. Commencing from the opulent splendour of the Carnegie Hall in New York City, Vallelonga and Shirley travel through the autumnal mirage of the vast countryside with the aim of completing the final performance at a country club in Birmingham, Alabama on the day before Christmas Eve.
We watch in awe as Shirley plays piano. His amazing dexterity and effortless control of his instrument is a wonder to behold. Ali must be commended for this achievement alone. Dates in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi flash by as fast as his fingers dance across the pristine Steinway piano keys to standing ovations.
Consequently, this is the only time that Shirley transcends his second class citizen stature in the eyes of the audience entranced. Despite his seemingly immortal artistic prowess on stage, as soon as he steps of it he is mortal once more. After the briefest of respites, the racism returns.
From the motel backlots to concert halls, Vallelonga and Shirley meander along highways in a stately fashion emblematic of the film itself. While their relationship is sometimes turbulent, their experiences of greater conflicts in the southern states binds them closer together. KFC helps too.
Shirley is more sophisticated but can appear somewhat aloof whereas Vallelonga is more easy going but his brashness can trip him up. While Shirley helps Vallelonga improve his diction, Vallelonga introduces Shirley to popular recording artists. A memorable screen friendship slowly evolves before us.
Featuring a diverse soundtrack, ‘Green Book’ is a delightful light comedy with undeniable dramatic tension. While based on a true story, again this is fiction not fact. It’s a film not a documentary. Although each are fundamentally represented in the other, essentially it’s more entertainment than information.
And that’s the last time I’m mentioning it.
While Mortensen has walked off with the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor and nominations in the leading categories at every major awards ceremony for an undeniably swaggering performance, Ali has swept the board in the supporting categories at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
He is the clear frontrunner, therefore, for his first BAFTA and second Oscar (after Supporting Actor for ‘Moonlight’) for a steadfastly spirited turn worthy of the awards and critical acclaim.
‘Green Book’ is in cinemas now.