By Megan Bianco
Now that the 2018 awards season comes to an end on Sunday, let us revisit one of the more polarizing and divisive films of last year: Peter Farrelly’s lighthearted biopic, Green Book. It is a lot like the popular period piece Driving Miss Daisy (1989), in that we have two very strong lead performances in a film that’s basically a fluff piece.
In 1962 New York, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is out of a job and looking for easy work before Christmas, and Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is in need of a driver for a two-month tour in the South. Despite their personal differences and Tony’s casual racial prejudice, the two come together for the sake of their careers. Tony also gets up-close accounts of Don regularly experiencing racism for being black, and Don even sees Tony mocked for being Italian-American.
The thing with Green Book is that there are some genuinely good scenes, particularly early on when Don and Tony are getting to know each other. And there was a lot of potential to be a great tribute to this talented but overlooked musical artist from the mid-20th century. The acting is great, and the friendship feels real and puts a smile on your face. But as the movie goes on, the portrayal gets a little unrealistic, with Tony quickly becoming the only “good” white guy in a sea of bigoted southerners. You can easily tell that the film is co-written and co-produced by Lip’s real son, Nick Vallelonga. Yet, like a lot of my fellow film critics, I’m going to recommend Green Book primarily on how strong the performances are.