I’m probably going to get ripped by a lot of professional critics for saying that GREEN BOOK is so far (with very little time left) the best film of 2018. To think I would ever have a movie a the top of my list that was the co-director on Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary, but yes, I love, love, love, LOVE a movie that was directed by a Farrelly brother (Peter). Some will call this movie very formulaic and generic with few surprises. Some will call this film too much of a crowdpleaser with not enough racial or cultural insight (highly disagree) to be put on the top of any best of list in 2018. Some will say the dialogue is too to the point and not very witty at all. Fuck ’em. About halfway through the film I was thinking, “unless this crashes and burns with the ending, this is easily the best of the year.” I thought I had jinxed myself. Normally when a movie is playing and I lean over and say I love this or this is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile, the ending completely crashes and burn, ending up being ultimately forgetting. Green Book defied those odds and landed perfectly for me.
And the reason why it landed perfectly was because of two people: Viggo Mortensen, and Mahershala Ali. They have the best chemistry I’ve seen in any film all year and they aren’t even romantic leads. Both deserve to be nominated for Oscars for this. They are pitch perfect, delivering what would be generic or collar pulling dialogue if not for their masterful deliveries. Their performances transcend the boundaries that the thin plot delivers,where it doesn’t matter what kind of situation they could be going through, you could watch them squabble, bicker, tease, or relate to each other for hours. The trailers don’t really give a sense of why the movie is called Green Book, but for those of you not in the know, I’ll explain it to you. The film takes place in 1962, and back in those days, there was this book, called The *censored* Motorist Green book, where it depicted safe places where African American travelers could find lodging, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve them. Viggo Mortensen plays an Italian-American bouncer that becomes a driver to a really, really talented African-American pianist named Dr. Don Shirley. Although very different culturally and morally ambiguous to one another, they together navigate through the 1960s deep south in order to get to each of Dr. Don Shirley’s venues where he is playing for rich white hypocritical folks.
The plot is very simple. They must make it to each venue and Dr. Shirley must play at each venue for Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Lip to receive the other half of the salary he was promised by the record company if the tour was finished unscathed. It’s essentially a road trip racial awareness film, and we already know that Peter Farrelly can go direct the hell out of a road trip movie, but can he make another one that is more diverse in its thinking, has smart character arcs and motivations, and can tie up everything in one nice racially moral bow? I give a resounding hell yes as an answer. Yes, you could say the movie is too smooth of a ride considering the subject matter. But to me, if you are making movies, and they are insights into racial oppression, you got to have films on both ends of the spectrum. There are great movies that deal with those issues that are gritty and real and dark. But as Thanos would say, you have to have balance. Green Book is that balance to those films. It tackles the same life lessons, but in a more heartfelt manner that gives you that nice ‘ooey-gooey’ feeling to get those families into the theater to get those profit making dollars. Even though I’d have to argue that for a PG-13 film, it is a pretty hard PG-13.
The film does have a few surprises. This movie was inspired by a true friendship, so I don’t know how much of what they showed was true or not (I decided not to do some research on this film, unlike Bohemian Rhapsody) but there are some character little plot twists that I didn’t see coming at all. It really is a feel good film. This film will capture your heart easily or you will denounce the movie by saying something to the tune of what one critic has said, “It’s not quite Racism for Dummies, but the strokes are so broad and the tone so breezy that “I saw Green Book” could qualify as the new “I have a black friend.” Yikes. Honestly that is too harsh of a review. I can tell you that nobody involved in this production sees the movie as such. I didn’t see the movie as such and would never use the movie as such in discussing it with people. It’s just a really really feel good movie that give us the best chemistry and performances of the year while tackling a very sensitive subject matter just the right way without it getting too harsh or controversial with modern audiences. I do understand that some people are upset the movie doesn’t go darker and grittier. But then I would say they need to understand that the world can’t be all dark and gritty just to get a point across. Not all people are going to accept that point in that way. Coming from it at a different angle can get others attention that you wouldn’t get going Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice on our asses.
So yeah, I loved this film. It really reminded me of The Help, another great movie that tackled a lot of the exact same issues. And just like The Help, Green Book rides a fine line on its tone, trying to convey a very serious message while not going too dark to lose people. The movie is as entertaining and quippy and fun just like its trailer was. And just like the trailer, if you teared up or cried during it, times that by about ten while watching the film. I recommend that entire families go out and see this during the upcoming holiday. I did say it was a harsh PG-13 (the F word is said 3 times, and several racial slurs and tiny bit of sexuality), but I think they can handle it (especially if families handled The Help). This is one of those films like The Shawshank Redemption, or Groundhog Day, or Ghostbusters, or Pulp Fiction, or Inception, that if you turn on the television, no matter where the movie is at, you’ll stick with it until the credits roll, and if an encore plays, watch it until you caught up with the previous airing you watched. It’s really that good, and anybody that doesn’t like it, I’m going to have to call you all sticks in the mud. Sometimes you have to keep your harsh critic within you in check.