Green Book - driving Miss Daisy in reverse
What a wonderful, uplifting, unique film. I laughed. I cried. I squirmed in my seat at the racial hatred and it is a tour de force from both leading actors. What else is there to say?
Ok, its not perfect and racially the message is mixed but it is one of the most enjoyable films you will see this year.
Green Book tells the story of working-class Italian American bouncer Frank Anthony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and his unexpected friendship with Jamaican American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) that began in 1962. Shirley hires Vallelonga to be his chauffeur and unofficial bodyguard during a tour of the US deep South with his jazz trio. Vallelonga is racist, but he needs the money to get his family through the holidays. Shirley is turned off by Vallelonga’s crassness, but he needs to be able to safely travel without fear of abusive discrimination. On their journey, Vallelonga learns how to be friends with a black person. Shirley learns how to ... enjoy fried chicken.
I wish I were kidding. There is an entire sequence in this film in which Vallelonga forces Shirley to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken in the car. Despite the obvious stereotypes, Shirley had spent his entire life up to that point never having eaten a single fried drumstick. Luckily for him, a white man appeared to force this necessary cultural experience by shoving a drumstick in his face and commanding him to eat it. This scene underlines one of the most ill-advised narrative threads in Green Book: that Shirley isn’t “black” enough. He doesn’t listen to Aretha Franklin, he doesn’t appear to have any close black friends, and he has no concept of soul food. For these reasons, we are treated to this misguided, degrading scene.
For all its faults, and there are many, I laughed and cried at the right moments. It's not as disarming as Driving Miss Daisy but it tries to do the same without the subtlety and delight. It has already started to pick up rewards and will no doubt feature in the Oscars next year.