FYI - all of my reviews are done while watching the movie........sort of a play by play.
Green Book (2018) stars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen as a classical pianist who is black and a bouncer turned driver who is Italian. It's based on the book The Negro Motorist Green Book. This true story from the perspective of the driver (Tony Vallelonga) as passed down to his son, Nick. Tony takes a job to drive for Don Shirley.
So going into this movie, that's about all I knew. And though I'd heard of Mahershala Ali, I've never seen him in anything before this movie. I'd never heard of the story or of Viggo, either. I like seeing new talent for the first time and anything that starts off "based on a true story" is always a favorite.
And roll em'!
Opening the story, it's obvious that Tony is racist as all hell. Two maintenance workers are in his home doing repair work. Tony's wife offers them a drink as a thank you for their work and then they leave. Tony can do nothing but eye the two drinking glasses over and over. Eventually, he picks them up in disgust and throws them in the trash. Why? The two workers are black. Then his family sits down to dinner beginning with a family prayer. Very much a hypocrite.
The Interview - Tony has no job for the next two months and needs work as he's got a family to support. He hears of a job and goes to check it out. In doing so, he's thrown a curve ball to realize that he'd be working for a black man. He lies about his views (duh) on black people. Dr. Shirley is not impressed but he needs someone to protect him as well as drive while on tour in the deep south during the 1960s.
Obviously, he gets the job.
30:45 into the movie - Tony is still an asshole. Oh, and he doesn't know to just shut the fuck up. His bubble is very small that he lives his life in. He's so busy spouting off his own opinions as though they're facts.
38:42 into the movie - Oh My Goodness. The first time we're able to hear his music. So dramatic. It pulls at your emotions until you find yourself lost. Even Tony is humbled.
Tony and Dr. Shirley are in the car listening to the radio. It's astounding to Tony that while the Dr. has heard of these singers, Dr. Shirley has never listened to them. Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Chuck Berry. Tony says "these are your people" to the Dr. It makes you realize that while he's a prominent, successful pianist, he's probably lonely. No one looks like him, no one plays like him, no one really talks to him as a friend. Lessons are beginning on both sides of this relationship.
48:00 into the movie - Tony defends the hell out of the Dr.'s contract to play on a Steinway. SLAP!!!!
LMAO - KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN (restaurant) IN THE STATE OF KENTUCKY!!! (Why is this so damn funny to me?
1:12:00 into the movie. I think more and more Tony is beginning to realize just a bit of what a black man needs to deal with just to get through each day.
1:22:00 into the movie. I wonder if Tony will ever realize how much better his marriage will be because of the letters that the Dr. has helped him write to his wife during this tour. I hope he's grateful.
The end of the movie. It ends with smiles and gratitude and new beginnings.
I was initially going to say that this movie was not special because it felt very typical of any movie where race is the underlying lesson. But it is special. Not because it's a movie but because this was the lives of two men and the building of their relationship. Maybe I should say friendship. They did have something tangible and real. It stood the test of time.
One of the things that shocked me the most was learning of Sundown Towns. Click the link so you can learn how fucked up our country IS.....not was......this is still happening today. Read it. Then ask yourself why more people don't hate us all. One of those moments where being ashamed to be white hit me very hard.
Things I took away from this story.
There is no big moment of epiphany in this movie. There is one scene where the Dr. just can't take Tony's ASSumptions anymore. He asks him.......if I'm not black enough, not white enough, not man enough.....where do I fit in? This movie seems to be about a relationship that would never have been possible without this tour. Two men with little in common finding that they don't need common ground to find respect and understanding. They've built a life long friendship based on honesty, integrity and in just learning about someone much different from themselves.
The reality, it's really showcasing the lonely life of an intelligent, talented, gay, alcoholic, black man who has no one. No one to share anything with ever. Imagine that for a moment. Close your eyes. Picture your life with no one around you. No family. No friends. No one that looks like you. No one that shares your interest. No one to confide in. No one that confides in you. No one to say hello, good morning, good night, I'm lonely. Just no one.
There's mention of a moment 6 years prior to this tour, that Nat King Cole was asked to perform. He would be the first black man to be invited to perform in Birmingham, AL ever. Here's the result.
Dr. Shirley was a special man with enormous talent. Tony was NOT a special man until he learned to accept Dr. Shirley........and to enjoy the person he became in this process.
Genius is not enough. It takes courage to change people's hearts.
Here's the Trailer! Enjoy!!! I give it a solid 4 shots out of 5.
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