Green Book looked from the trailer like a colour-swap version of Driving Miss Daisy, as working-class Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga – aka Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) – becomes the driver for African-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse‘s Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues through the Deep South in 1962.
I was struggling to stay awake while watching this trailer… but I’ll try anything. After all, if Blake Lively can sway me with A Simple Favour, and Melissa McCarthy can do the same with Can You Ever Forgive Me? then all bets are off.
This is a time when everyone smoked and everyone flicked their cigarettes out on the street before the ignorant morons were given an £80 fine for doing so. This is also a time when everyone was racist, so both Tony and Don are going to get along as well as chalk and cheese, but Tony needs the job (even though it’ll keep him away from his family for eight weeks in the run-up to Christmas), the money’s good and Don needs a heavy to deal with drunks who frequent clubs all too often, and we can see from the opening scene that he’s the man for the job as he quickly deals with a pack of lairy lads in the Copa club. Also, as he points out to the pianist, Don won’t always be too welcome as they travel through the Deep South.
Where the title comes from is that in certain places, the pair can’t stay in the same hotel, and ahead of the trip, Tony’s given the “Negro Motorists’ Green Book”, subtitled “For vacation without aggravation”.
There’s a lot of subtle humour such as when straight-laced Don asks live-lover Tony how his dinner is, as they make their way to the first stop in Pittsburgh, and he replies, “Salty”. Don counters, “Have you ever considered being a food critic. You have such a way with words(?)” Tony doesn’t get this and asks plainly, “Why, is there money in it?”
Don also tells him that since they’ll be attending some post-show parties, he needs to tone down the way he talks by saying, “You diction, however charming it may be in the Tri-State area, could use some… finessing”, to which Tony replies, “Diction, like in what way?”, and Don comes back with, “Like in the only way the word is ever used”. Tony counters, “People don’t like the way I talk, they can go take a shit!”
Eventually Tony says he’ll just wait outside for Don, who replies, “A sound compromise(!)”
And when Don’s described as a ‘virtuoso’, Tony attempts to explain to Don, “It’s Italian… it means… er… you’re really good”. A line like that hasn’t made me snort so much since the “..as in Helsinki, Sweden” line in Die Hard, and if you don’t know the one I mean, then you really need to watch that film again. And if you *have* seen Die Hard, then… you also really need to watch that film again. It’s ace.
It seems a bit cheesy to say that they’ll both learn a lot about life by spending all that time together in each other’s company, but they do, and it’s very sweet.
However, it does slow down a bit in the second half and get all, “Hey, y’know what – both white AND black people have problems!” and then it takes that cricket bat and beats you about the head with it for most of that time. I could’ve done without the lecture, as well as the schmaltz which kicks in towards the end, as well as a final scene which, even though this is based on a true story, felt like they’d just nabbed the ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
I understand also that in real life, the pair weren’t actually friends and so it was a basic employer-employee relationship, but I can understand what they’ve done to make it verging on a buddy-buddy comedy at times.
As for the film itself, and also as I observed with the the recent Blu-ray release of A Simple Favour, it’s shot in the rather odd 2.00:1 ratio which has become the norm for a lot of TV dramas these days, whether for Doctor Who or with a lot of Netflix dramas. However, I’m not sure how it would’ve been shown at the cinema, since cinemas either have 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 screens. If it’s the former, then fine, but if it’s the latter, then it could be like when I saw Tomorrowland: A World Beyond at the Odeon Trafford Centre. That film had a 1.90:1 ratio (Jeez, just stick to one or the other for the cinema!) and the print had the film in a 1.85:1 ‘container’ (so it was treated like a film in that ratio) and so it was windowboxed with black bars all around. There seems to be no option to ‘zoom in slightly’ so there was no way out of it for the cinema, and it’s the studio who states (at least for an opening weekend) which films are shown on which screens, purely by the number of seats available, so the screen ratio is of zero concern to them.
Available now is the CD soundtrack
Running time: 130 minutes
Release date: January 30th 2019
Studio: Entertainment One UK Ltd
Format: 2.00:1 (ARRIRAW (3.4K))
Director: Peter Farrelly
Producers: Jim Burke, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Charles B. Wessler
Screenplay: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Music: Kris Bowers
Tony Lip: Viggo Mortensen
Dr. Don Shirley: Mahershala Ali
Dolores: Linda Cardellini
Johnny Venere: Sebastian Maniscalco
Oleg: Dimiter D Marinov
George: Mike Hatton
Record Exec: PJ Byrne
Gio Loscudo: Joe Cortese
Copa Coat Check Girl: Maggie Nixon
Bobby Rydell: Von Lewis
Rydell Band Leader: Jon Sortland
Jules Podell: Don Stark
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.