Review: Green Book

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali strike a fine chord as a tandem headlining the recently released Green Book, which struck me as very watered down and dull for wholesome entertainment.

The picture is adapted from the real life friendship built between an Italian-American night-club bouncer named “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, portrayed by Mortensen, and prominent African-American concert pianist Doctor Don Shirley, who is portrayed by Ali. Shirley hires Tony’s, well let’s just call them, “services” as a driver and the two travel across the country from New York to the Deep South for two months for Dr. Shirley’s concert tour and the trip is an eye-opening experience for both gentlemen as they witness how different the issues of race and stereotyping are treated in this country.

Director Peter Farrelly with his co-writers Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie spin a good yarn and it is entertaining but outside of the exemplary portrayals from the leading men, it’s like “been there, done this”. I’m saying anyone who has seen their share of films that deal with racism and stereotyping in America during the 1960s, they come out of Green Book knowing that they’ve seen better.

I believe what really undercut the appeal for this film for me was the writing. It’s interesting to see how these two men from different backgrounds found common ground in a very divisive time in our history but the material was treated with kid gloves. We get a few laughs in the story, but it’s so watered down it leaves a weak taste in my mouth; this is a very underwhelming picture that that is kept afloat by Mortensen and Ali.

It should go without saying that the major selling points for Green Book are undoubtedly the performances of Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. Their collective mannerisms, their speaking patterns, the habits of the men they are portraying whether Ali is on the piano or Mortensen is scarfing down fried chicken or pizza, I definitely believe they should be in discussion for two of the most excellent performances of 2018. They could be Awards Season contenders in my opinion.

The rest of the cast are alright at best. Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Mike Hatton, Dimeter D. Marinov, P.J. Byrne, Joe Cortese, Von Lewis, Don Stark, Quinn Duffy, all of the players in this film are given relatively little screen time but they all make their mark as best they can given this story is told from the perspective of Vallelanga and Shirley.

Technically, this is a rather tame picture, which is to say that this is good enough to remember but hardly anything to truly astound audiences. Kris Bowers’ music is good to fill the background of the film, Sean Porter’s cinematography is decent, Patrick J. Don Vito’s editing is fine, Tim Galvin’s production design is satisfactory, Scott Plauche’s art direction is fair, Selena van den Brink’s set decoration is very good as is the costumes courtesy of Betsy Heimann.

When it comes to Green Book, all you get is the main attraction of the two leading performances. Everything else is bland, from the writing to the overall execution.

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