Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stubs - Green Book

Green Book (2018) Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini Directed by Peter Farrelly Screenplay by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly Produced by Jim Burke, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Charles B. Wessler Run Time: 130 minutes. USA Color  Biographical  Comedy-drama

In the last effort to see more movies nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, we finally made it to see Green Book, which in addition to Best Picture is also nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Viggo Mortensen), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali), Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing
(Patrick J. Don Vito). By now the audiences have pretty much thinned out and the only people are probably ones like us, trying to see what the fuss is all about and to have some interest in the Awards show.

Frank (Viggo Mortensen) and Don (Mahershala Ali) are men from
diverse backgrounds learning to live with one another.

The film tells the story of two men with very different backgrounds. There is Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga, a made guy who is big, tough and unrefined. A bouncer at the Copacabana in New York, he finds he has nothing to do when the club starts renovations, which are supposed to last a couple of months. Frank has a wife and two kids that he needs to support.

Dr. Don Shirley is quite the opposite. Extremely well-educated with three doctorates, fluent in several languages, including Italian and he is also a very gifted musician. Classically trained, he has been working instead in "pop" music as part of a jazz trio. He is about to embark on an eight-week tour, which includes several shows in the Deep South.

It is 1962, Don is black and Frank is Italian and bigoted. But Frank needs the money and can overlook his own prejudices to make a buck. It is during this tour that the bulk of the film takes place. During the tour, Frank gets to appreciate Don not as a black man, but as a very talented human. Don learns that despite his rough edges, Frank is really grounded. It takes time, but the two men grow close and it is a friendship that will last until both men died in 2013.

The film is filled with the funny sort of things that happen in real life and when cultures and understandings clash. Frank paints Don with a black brush but Don is not your typical Black man or human for that matter.

But what underlies the film is the general bigotry that was running rampant in most of the South at that time with its sundown laws and white-only facilities. In fact, during that section of the tour, Frank often stays in nicer accommodations than Don, who is limited to what is available to him in the Green Book, a sort of black person's AAA directory at the time.

It is sinful that people were treated this way for no other reason than the color of their skin. While prejudice still exists in this country, one has to hope and pray that it is not this bad still, though I'm sure there are people who still carry this misguided hatred with them.

To be honest, Peter Farrelly might seem like the last director you would trust with this type of film. A history of directing lowest common denominator comedies doesn't seem like prep for tackling such a frank discussion of racial prejudice, but he does a very good job of not getting in the way of the story and deserves praise for his efforts here.

The acting is really good as well with both Mortensen and Ali as standouts in their roles. Both men give deep performances and you really get to feel that you not only get to know these men as individuals but also as friends. You get a real sense that it goes from business to personal as the tour comes to an end.

By the end of the film, Frank openly brags about Don Shirley's talent.

The music throughout the film is really good as well, from hearing snippets of Little Richard and Aretha Franklin on the radio to hearing Shirley play, though it is in this film Kim Bowers.

I'm sorry I waited so long to see this film and would readily recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet seen it. This is a very strong movie that is both intriguing and heartfelt. If you don't at least tear up by the film's end, then maybe you should check your pulse, cause your heart isn't beating.

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