Ali and Mortensen bring the absolute best out of the plot, even when its morals are easily questioned
Coming under colossal criticism directly from its premiere, Green Book hasn’t had the easiest run in to standing out as one the year’s most acclaimed features. Yet in the moment, and eventually as part of the bigger picture, Peter Farrelly’s latest directorial venture resides as an impeccably engaging and warm hearted feature, containing much to analyse as a modern American film and as a broader look at the historical racism within the country.
Openly racist and unnaturally stubborn, Frank Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is a tough-nosed bouncer working at New York’s Copacabana nightclub. Set for renovations, the club closes for an indefinite period, leaving Frank desiring extra employment during the off-time. Contacted by Doctor Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African American classical pianist embarking on a tour of the deep south, Vallelonga is employed as Shirley’s driver, despite the pair’s immediate distaste for the other’s first impression.
Controlled completely by the leading pair, Green Book is at the mercy of both actor’s incredible screen work, elevating the story to an incredibly high level. Ali and Mortensen bring the absolute best out of the plot, even when its morals are easily questioned. Their on-screen chemistry and rapport oozes pure joy, coming across as not just two actors producing performances at the height of their abilities, but the embodiment of two characters resembling the huge changes in the way race is approached across America.
The issues Green Book finds itself embroiled in, come from its lack of acceptance of America’s current racial tension, giving an overarching notion that racism is ‘solved’ by the end of the film. It’s feel good nature leans towards a positive outlook, but that also leaves it open to scrutiny and suggestions of denial. The criticism is perhaps exaggerated, but it’s certainly warranted, and outside of the film’s opening and closing frames it feels as much more of an issue than it does inside.
Inherently flawed, Green Book still manages to become a flourishing watch with incredible performances. Shade can be thrown at it, but as a picture, and as an outright feature, it manages to promote its ideas of togetherness and forgiveness incredibly well. It may pose ideas on race that do not match the genuine current state of affairs, especially when compared to something as upfront as BlacKkKlansman, but a misguided approach doesn’t make it a bad film, it just makes it a divisive one.
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