Green Book movie review: A fine script with thought-provoking commentary on our socio-political climate
Green Book may be packed with familiar themes but with Peter Farrelly’s sensitive direction, it makes use of its talented cast and finely tuned script
Green Book feels like a much-needed respite from overbearingly big blockbuster movies. Think of it as a restful breeze in the middle of a lot of raging gales. It may be packed with familiar themes, but with Peter Farrelly’s sensitive direction it makes use of its talented cast, finely tuned script, and a wealth of charm to deliver an often funny but satisfying road trip.
Viggo Mortensen plays Frank, an Italian-American blue collar bloke whose life changes when he is assigned the task to be a chauffeur for Don (Mahershala Ali), a huge celebrity who is embarking on a multi-city tour down South. It’s a setup ripe for exploring numerous expected elements like the buddy road trip sub-genre, a dysfunctional society observation, the contrast between a rich black guy and a poor white dude in America, and even unexpected elements like an undercurrent of discourse on racism.
Make no mistake, this is a ‘message movie’ and the film does not hold back in cramming what it is saying down your throats at times. If you begin to think that the movie’s larger arc feels familiar, you’re not wrong – this is yet another film where two men with dissimilar backgrounds and outlooks in life are put together in a box and discover each other’s weaknesses and ultimately common ground. The kicker here is the fact that Frank, being a racist himself, needs to wade through the deep South and protect Don from other racists – it makes for both a gold mine of comedy and drama. So even when not a lot happens that would surprise you, and the whole finding-yourself-while-driving-down-the-highway idea is likely to draw comparisons to other films, well-crafted familiarity and thoughtfully drawn characters ace originality.
What makes Green Book work besides its comfortable road trip setting is its warmly depicted utopia for what a dissertation on racism should feel like – that everyone around the world should ideally be stuck in a situation like the two dudes in this film, and be able to have the same meaningful and free flowing string of experiences to procure a progressive thought process. It’s a leftist pipe dream, sure, but there’s little harm in depicting nearly every cinematic character as a more complex human than you’d expect.
The film never loses its focal point and continually becomes more enjoyably composite as the angry bullshit artist of Frank clashing with the suave Don who seems cool but hides all that his community has been through. The only curious aspect of the film is that we see the story more from the point of view of Frank, since he’s supposed to be the racist white audience’s eyes, and a bit more balance in the narrative would have elevated the film further. This is also because the screenplay is developed by Frank’s real life son, and everything you see would obviously derive from Frank’s experiences. Regardless, even from the slanted perspective the topics are stitched together creatively to present a thought provoking but still entertaining tapestry of our socio-political climate. Catch this one in theaters before it disappears.
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