Green Book: an unexpected crowd pleaser

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Green Book: an unexpected crowd pleaser

Tala Trad, Memorial Contributing Writer

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Film festivals and critics around the world have been buzzing about filmmakers Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. Both directors, known for their distinctive takes on the matter of race in America throughout their careers, have not failed to execute truly spectacular films, but the film that has surprised film festival goers the most was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book.

Farrelly, of Dumb and Dumber fame, presents a film based on a true story about Doctor Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a highly-educated African American pianist who embarks on a tour in the Jim Crow-era deep south with his bodyguard and driver, an Italian American man named Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen). The two confront racial stereotypes and prejudices on their journey, forming an unexpected bond based on trust despite their differences.    

Keeping true to his work, Farrelly’s part-drama, part-comedy is sprinkled with jokes throughout, which in retrospect entertained audiences enough to maintain their interest. However, one cannot help but wonder if a film by a white man told through the perspective of one accurately portrays the experiences of a black man in the south in the 1960s.

   Unfortunately, it is unable to be certain of that, but the film does not brush over these events. In fact, although not revolutionary in doing so, both characters are placed in different yet disheartening situations where they face instances of danger and hate. Despite taking on such a serious subject, there were no powerful scenes that stood out and if there was the potential for one it seemed to be glazed over, which was an element that would have elevated the status of this film.

   On paper, Green Book doesn’t seem like a potential Best Picture contender but with amazing actors like Ali and Mortensen, not to mention beloved actress Linda Cardellini playing Mortensen’s wife, the performance was truly amazing as each actor embodied their character down to their unique mannerisms. Mortensen’s incredible transformation into famed Tony Lip even earned him a Best Actor of the Year award by the National Board of Reviews.

  In fact, the amazing ensemble Farrelly put together and the writing have won this movie Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Reviews, the precursor for next year’s award season.

   It would be a crime to not mention the score of a film that centers around a piano player. The music is adapted and composed by Kristopher Bowers from the real Don Shirley. Bowers has worked with great musical minds and worked on many film and television projects before, but Green Book is his biggest to date. The style of music was unexpected but that itself is addressed within the film. The sweet blend of classical and jazz, accompanied by low strings played in the scenes where Shirley performs reflects the time period and the true eloquence and skill of the highly-educated and renowned character.

   Despite the potential bias of writing, Farrelly most certainly delivers a qualifying contender for awards season with a beautiful upbeat score, fast-paced writing and an incredible cast. It is a beautiful story of an unexpected friendship that honors both Shirley and Lip and surpasses expectations of audiences and critics alike.  

Contact Tala Trad at [email protected].

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