by Ian Morton
Based on true events, Green Book follows the famed African-American classical Jazz pianist, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as he embarks on a tour of the 60’s American South. Expecting trouble in most of the still racially segregated states, Shirley acquires the unexpected services of New York bouncer, Tony Vallelonga aka ‘Tony Lip’ (Viggo Mortensen), in an effort to make things run as smoothly as possible.
Brought to life by director Peter Farrelly, the best way to describe Green Book is to essentially look at other films within the directors back catalogue. While not necessarily known for hard hitting drama, 1994’s Dumb and Dumber is strangely the best comparison to be made here. Bringing together his skills on the buddy up comedy, GB thrives by utilising the same plot structure, performance and chemistry but this time set at a time when laughter isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Tackling racial tension amongst the Southern states of America in the late 60’s, the grounded plot sets a solid tone and foundation for the story to unfold. By setting the foundations early on, the production benefits from extraordinary layers of depth, giving the key scenes a huge amount of weight that ultimately allows you to feel more of the unfolding events. This additional gravitas not only benefits the story but adds more to the relationship between the characters.
The true shine to this Oscar season gem however lies with the performances. Both leads, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are extraordinary in roles that are quite different from what either have done previously. Mortensen’s natural swagger as Tony Lip is a pleasure to watch as he slowly connects with his unlikely boss, Don Shirley. When matched with a naturally stoic turn from Ali and the result is an engrossing story that makes you feel connected to everything, from the littlest bonding session in the car through to the grandiose gestures of friendship. An unlikely duo in a more than believable story.
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