On the surface, Green Book appears to be Oscar bait tailored but Green Book is effective and affecting while being careful to avoid overdosing its audience on material that some might deem too shocking or upsetting.
The film kicks off when an Italian with tenuous mob connections, finds himself unemployed after the Copacabana club he works at closes down. Not wanting to become a mob pawn, he takes a job driving renowned African-American concert pianist, Don Shirley across the deep South in a Cadillac DeVille and to act as his bodyguard. The road trip goes predictably along and hits many of the milestones you’d expect from a buddy movie.
You could describe Green Book as a more masculine Driving Miss Daisy, but also there’s more to it than that. It hits the racial tension notes with clarity and direction and delves into tense and emotional moments without hesitation. But what makes it a winner for me is that It’s surprisingly funny. The whole audience erupted in laughter at many moments of humor that appear as if from nowhere. Most of the giggles are courtesy of the ridiculous conversations between mobster-turned-chauffeur and his sophisticated, but out of place companion, while trying not to get murdered as they tour across the flyover states.
Shockingly it is Viggo Mortensen who carries most of the humor. Though his character is clearly a combination of the typical Italian stereotypes, on him it works. Mortensen has amazing comedic timing that those who know him predominantly as the incontrovertible Aragon will be astounded by.
Mahershala Ali has gone from strength to strength recently, and his work here is no exception. While he does fulfill the role of “straight man” to Mortensen’s Clown he holds the story together in a compelling and honest way. He has some excellent moments of gaiety throughout and it’s interesting to watch his emotional evolution as the plot thickens.
This film is worth seeing for the performances alone. These capable actors make what could easily be misinterpreted as stereotypes, feel real and true. Which is precisely what this film needed to elevate it from melodrama to the arthouse road trip picture it is.
Overall, Green Book is an enjoyable watch suitable for just about everyone, and while it’s not perfect, it’s very good
Green Book is out in Irish cinemas, February 1st 2019.