‘Green Book’ Movie Review: A Road Trip to Friendship

It was a great relief seeing the movie "Green Book", a taste of 1960’s vibe, plain and laid-back, contrasted by comedy scenes while punching you with its white-and-black discrimination issues. The film tackles real-life story of African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and an Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen).

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen Tony Lip in 'Green Book'
Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen Tony Lip in 'Green Book' / Universal Pictures

Smooth scenes and slow paced at first, yet it drives your appetite on what will happen to the whole concert tour of the famed pianist backed up with his driver-slash-assistant. It is a story about friendship and how they touched each other’s life.

We have seen typical movies in the past, with actors-in-tandem, one black, one white, but this one is a hit tandem as they complement each other with their characters, Don Shirley being a man with sophisticated demeanor, and Tony Lip as the straight-forward funny guy. The story started on Don Shirley’s concert tour, with their long drive from New York City down south to Alabama. Don Shirley gave Tony Lip a Green Book – a guide for black travelers to find safe accommodations.

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen Tony Lip in 'Green Book'
Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen Tony Lip in 'Green Book' / Universal Pictures

Tony Lip’s first encounter with Doc, a name that Tony calls Don Shirley, in an interview was a mess, turning down the offer on becoming the latter’s assistant, driver, and butler all in one. But later on, he accepted the offer, with half of his pay given at first day and the rest will be given after the tour has been completed, to make sure he’ll finish the whole trip planning to return home on Christmas Eve. Here marks the start of their journey, sharing each other’s differences along the way, with Doc as the serious one contrasted by Tony Lip, hilarious scenes make their way. Even eating a Kentucky Fried Chicken has been made hilarious; Tony Lip generalizing that black people always want to eat fried chicken, but Doc acts the opposite.

On the first concert stop, Tony Lip first heard Don Shirley play the piano and was impressed with the latter’s piano prowess. From this moment, he started showing his support to the pianist, and in each concert and road trip makes their bond stronger. Saving Doc in a bunch of places, like in a pub from white people, harassment by police officers, and even discrimination in a tailor suit shop, show how deep their friendship is. On the other hand, Doc helped Tony create letters to his wife, as Doc is so expressive and poetic compared to Tony’s bland choice of words, to the point that Tony’s wife and her friends are so moved whenever she reads his letters.

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen Tony Lip in 'Green Book'
Tony Lip (left) and Don Shirley (right), composing a letter to Tony’s wife / Universal Pictures

There was a scene where Tony had his temper burst out against the police because of insinuating Don Shirley to get out of the car in the middle of the rain that made them held in a prison cell, only to be freed out by Doc’s legal actions. “You never win with violence. You only win when you maintain your dignity”, a line by Doc, really is a thing. Also one of the highlights in the film is the confrontation on the restaurant in his last leg of the concert in Alabama – a restaurant that don’t accept black people as customers, yet the venue in which he will do the concert. This showed how much discrimination happened during that era, and as a response from Doc, he didn’t continue to finish the concert, showing his firmness with his rights as a person, that color must not be an issue.

As there are confrontational scenes, the film also showed light to wrap up the movie. They managed to get home on a Christmas Eve, a scene where Tony invites Doc to his home but has been refused. A worry-some Tony was welcomed to his home by his family to celebrate. To his surprise, a person knocked through his door. Doc bringing a wine, and celebrated Christmas with the family. And a funny thing that Tony’s wife whispered to Doc is that she knew whom the letters came from.

Overall, the movie is great that it deserved various nominations and awards at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Ali), a convincing portrayal of roles by Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. This showed how friendship can start from anything, from a driver or assistant, with no race as a factor in friendship.

'Green Book' is set for release in the Philippines on January 30.

— Rein, The Summit Express

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