Title: Green Book
Genre: Comedy, Biography, Drama
Director: Peter Farrelly
Brian Hayes Currie
Music: Kris Bowers
Cinematography: Sean Porter
Dimiter D. Marinov
Ninja N. Devoe
American goofball comedy purveyors, one half of the Farrelly brothers goes solo, Peter Farrelly’s GREEN BOOK is this year’s Oscar hopeful, and could, very possibly pull a DRIVING MISS DAISY win against more high-brow heavyweights, Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA and Yorgos Lanthimos’’ THE FAVOURITE, both lead 10 nominations.
Story-wise, it is a pertinent reversal of Bruce Beresford’s surprising Oscar champ (both are snubbed for nominations for its directors), inspired by the true events in the 60s, NYC bouncer, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Mortensen), an Italian family man, is hired by black pianist “Doc” Don Shirley (Ali) as his chauffeur to accompany him an eight-week concert tour in the Deep South, during which, the pair has to inure deep-seated racism and commences a heartfelt bonding process that is riddled with laughter and compassion, all to flog the obvious ideology to death (and introducing the obsolete concept of what is a “green book”) with an unpopular white savior designation.
That said, the film itself will hearteningly cruise any skeptical viewer to its finish line, and most of the credit goes to the two leaders, Mortensen, vanishingly disappears from his lean physique and balloons into a typical foodie with a daddy bod, whose tucking-in scenes are so achingly funny, and Farrelly surely splurges on them, with fried chicken being put into great use into elucidating Don’s awkward position as a fish out of water among either white or black folks, for his skin color or erudite miens. Mortensen’s physical transmogrification welds eloquently with Tony’s philistine, rough-diamond characteristics that in spite of being a total cliché, the whole package of Tony Lip resoundingly connects with audience, preponderantly because of Mortensen’s brio and commitment.
On the other hand, Mahershala Ali has an inherent advantage that lies in Doc’s unique otherness, which visually, is pointed up by Farrelly’s unsubtle arrangement (that collect gaze from black farmers working in the field just betrays Farrelly’s lack of imagination and flourish as a director), but Ali, has become the undivided cynosure ever since Don’s grand entrance, and gradually, stories of Don’s background emerge and his distinct make-up rounds out through many unsavory encounters with local racists and convos with Tony (who unfortunately shifts more into an onlooker or fixer as their journey continues). Never distracted from being charismatic, Ali affectionately impersonates Don’s contradicted feelings, his anal-retentive, prissy inclination and most of all, a beautifully rendered vulnerability, which makes his ambidexterity of piano woodshedding more like the icing on the cake. One might surmise Oscar voters are collectively rueing the day that they have given Ali his Oscar far too soon for MOONLIGHT (2016), yes Oscar No. 2 is his, albeit it is an unequivocal leading role.
GREEN BOOK’s script makes good with minutiae such as a (presumably stolen) jade stone, Tony’s letters to his home-bound wife Dolores (Cardellini, shoehorned in the ideal wife part), who is given the most gratifying line to utter when she finally meets Don in the end, and the well-mined twist of whether Tony brings a gun or not.
Last but definitely not the least, the movie doesn’t shy from implicating Don’s closeted identity (at the risk of offending Don’s real-life family, though), a telling sign that homosexuality has finally earned a tiny toehold in mainstream production that no longer needs a full feature fixated on it for special treatment, just put it there, as it is in life.
Although congenitally mired in the backlash of its inception from Tony’s heirs, co-producer-cum-co-writer Nick Vallelonga is Tony’s son, but as a film per se, GREEN BOOK is categorically a massive-appealing, cracker-barrel, feel-good gas bestowed with two tours-de-force and slightly burdened by a less luminous journeyman behind the wheel.