Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Green Book: Enjoy the Ride Along the Way to Redemption

Movie Review: Green Book (2018)
Version: Library Blue-Ray borrow

Green Book isn't an easy journey, for characters or viewers. It places tough bar bouncer "Tony Lip" Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) and delicate classical pianist Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali) on a long-winding road trip of self-discovery, mostly through the racist southern USA. You'll need thick skin to make it through, but it's worth the journey.

Tony is there because his work at a New York City bar is suspended for a while and it's good to stretch his legs on a long drive. Shirley is there to make a quiet statement. Neither is there for the other, initially, and the tension between the two is palpable as Tony struggles to protect and provide for the man he's signed on to serve, guided only by the Green Book guide for negroes who dare to travel in the segregated Deep South of the early 1960's United States. But as the two learn about each other's lives and the realities of appalling disparities of injustice, and their newfound respect for each other's talents and strengths, they take on the world together and finally become friends.

The picture painted is an ugly one. There is a gritty earthiness to this film that feeds into the reality of the times Green Book exposes. Be prepared for the long haul, because it takes till nearly the end of the film before there will be relief. And that's as it should be, because that's how long the struggle that is the theme of the film has taken.

Mortensen is an underrated actor who often takes on meaty roles, and Green Book is among his meatiest. Ali has been winning accolades for some time for his soulful portrayals in heavy-themed films, and this is among his most sensitive. Together, they make a powerful twosome on the long road to redemption an a subject desperately needing it. If we really pay attention, we enjoy the ride along the way.

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