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Green Book - Film Review

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by Marina Marangos (subscribe)
Published December 12th 2018
Finding fried chicken in Kentucky
Let's start at the beginning - this is based on a true story and as always with true stories, the opportunity to connect or understand the issues is heightened. Green Book is one film that I would happily recommend you went along to see over this holiday time. It is actually quite seasonal in a northern hemisphere kind of way, and you will see why at the end of the film.

Green Book
Green Book

This is a story about a road trip across America and one into the deep southern states. Mahershala Ali portrays Doctor Don Shirley, a well educated, multilingual musician who is embarking on a concert tour and is in need of a driver.

Viggo Mortenson plays Tony Vallelonga, who is a tough-talking Italian American from an expansive family living in Brooklyn. He finds himself without work for a couple of months and when this job offer comes up, he is a little torn about accepting it but the Doctor is quite insistent and they set off on their journey across America.

I can say without hesitation that Viggo Mortenson as the Italian American is an absolute hoot. He embraces the role wholly and wonderfully with a broad Brooklyn accent, very paternalistic views and passionate temper. He is amused and indeed perplexed about his boss - the Dr, who is, of course, a doctor of music and not medicine and the film is a lovely journey of their relationship and the challenges they face along the way.

This, however, is not just a feel-good movie - it raises some stark and confronting issues about segregation and the way African Americans were treated in the 1960s. The examples are so appalling and unacceptable to us now but we have to remember that African Americans encountered this kind of prejudice in their lives almost on a daily basis and often it was extremely difficult to know how to deal with it and what the results could be. The film does it very well. We have scenes where Tony uses his diplomacy to save the good Doctor out of a sticky situation. There are other times, however, where he explodes with anger and frustration at the way he is treated and in particular, where some of that prejudice is suddenly turned on to him.

The film is true to the time - beautiful old cars, furniture from the 60s, costumes and styles carefully produced and presented. What wins through, however, is the lovely humour and banter between the two characters as they gradually find out about each other's lives and loves.

The title of the film relates to a little 'Green Book' which was the manual to enable black people to travel in the south and find places which would accept them to stay.

My take away line from the film is: "Genius is not enough, you need courage to change people."

The film is directed by Peter Farrelly. It will prove to be a favourite of 2019.
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