Move over Love Actually, there is a new feel-good Christmas movie in town. It's just a pity that it will not be released in Australia until after this merry season. Frank Anthony (Tony) Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer at the Copacabana, is recommended as a multi-skilled driver over two months for the flawed genius, Afro-American piano player, Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali).
Tony vows he'll be home for Christmas. How he manages to achieve this hinges on his relationship with a coloured man. Tony Lip, a nickname bestowed upon him at school because of his ability to "bullshit", is part of a close-knit Italian community in New York and there is no time for Negros, or eggplants as they derisively describe them. I take it they mean black on the outside and white on the inside, particularly when they take on some of the trades normally reserved for white folk. All this does not augur well for a road trip.
Don bravely plans a tour of the Deep South, where a few years previously well-known popular artist, Nat King Cole, had been assaulted by the Ku Klux Klan at one of his concerts. I was unsure as to whether he had a point to prove by undertaking such a precarious journey given this was during the 1960s, but a contract is a contract. Most of the towns he played in were making headlines for all the wrong reasons in that decade and his eyes were opened to the conditions suffered by the Afro-American population in that part of the United States.
As foreseen, Tony's muscle is called upon on several occasions to extricate Don from precarious situations common to that era, but also those of his own making. Each man sees himself as superior to the other in various ways, but as in all feel good movies, compromise and friendship win out as they learn many life lessons from each other.
Green Book is touted as being based on a true story, but according to a recent article in Vanity Fair, the facts around the pianist Don Shirley do not get an airing and poetic licence is used to make many points. His family refute much of the content, but the writer, Nick Vallelonga, Tony's son, says that is how his father told the story and that, even as a five-year-old, he remembers much of it. Whatever the truth, it makes for a great heart-warming story.
Green Book runs for 130 minutes. At no time did I look at my watch. I was fully engaged for the entire film. There are many humorous touches at the expense of both of the leads which gives a serious subject a good dose of lightheartedness when required. And why the title? I leave that for you to find out. Apart from five Golden Globe nominations, that is another reason for you to see this great movie.