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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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“Green Book” is charming despite its flaws

Green+Book+movie+poster
Photo by Creative Commons
Green Book movie poster

Directed by Peter Farrelly, “Green Book” gets its title from “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a travel guide that aided black travelers during the Jim Crow era. The film is based on the real friendship between black musician Dr. Don Shirley and Italian bouncer Tony Vallelonga.
The film follows Tony as he drives Don throughout the deep south on a concert tour. The pair are met with blatant racism and, despite the social and cultural differences between the two, they are able to bond and become close friends.
Despite the distinct racism of the south, the film avoids directly dealing with any of the racism during this time period. Farrelly uses most of the film to depict the friendship between Don and Tony, and the natural chemistry between Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen provides the film with a justification for its inherent shallowness.
Farrelly earned his Hollywood reputation alongside his brother, Bobby, as the directoral pair, the Farrelly Brothers. The Farrellys directed hollow comedy films such as the “Dumb and Dumber” films and “Shallow Hal”, and have worked together for nearly 20 years. However, since the pair’s latest work on “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014, Peter has split from his brother and has decided to deviate from the absurdist comedies that he and his brother directed and wrote together. “Green Book” is Peter’s first film without his brothers involvement, and it is clear that he is not yet accustomed to the tone of the drama genre.
The film itself has many scenes and instances that are played for laughs, and Farrelly is clearly attempting for the overall tone of the film to be lighthearted, but not every scene can be excused by his heartwarming approach. In multiple scenes, Farrelly strays from his attempts at lighthearted fun and tries to direct the film towards a deeper message about racism. It is in these scenes that Farrelly clearly shows how deep in over his directorial ability he really is. The tone of these scenes is nowhere near the level of the attempted serious tone, and Farrelly dips deathly close to outright offensive.
Although Farrelly’s directoral inability is clearly on display, Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen save the film from a tonal purgatory and inject life back into the doomed film. Ali, who plays the introverted, pretentious Dr. Don Shirley, gives one of his best performances of his illustrious career. Although best performance is certainly his work in Barry Jenkins’ film “Moonlight,” his work in “Green Book” is a close second. Ali’s loneliness is instantly felt, and his work throughout the film continues his feeling of isolation. Ali’s counterpart, Viggo Mortensen, plays the comically shallow, caricature-like Italian bouncer from the Bronx. Despite Farrelly’s inability to write a believable character, Mortensen’s role as Tony and brings a sense of believability to the poorly written role.
In the directoral hands of a more well-rounded director, “Green Book” could have had more of lasting impact. The incredible story of Dr. Shirley is one that deserves a better, more in depth film. Thankfully, the enthusiastic performances of Ali and Mortensen make up slightly for Farrelly’s incompetence enough to make the film watchable.
Rating: 3/5

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