Review: Green Book – Oscar Success or Total Mess?

The first time I heard about this movie was, surprisingly enough, during a lecture about constructing and presenting a good pitch. Out of all the examples we were given, Green Book and At Eternity´s Gate were featured as two of the worst. Ironically, both of the movies scored more than one Oscar nomination, which led me to think: how? As it turns out, I was wrong to question its success.

Green Book tells the story of Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and Don Shirley’s (Mahershala Ali) unconventional friendship. Set in 1962, the Italian-American ‘bouncer’ Tony gets hired by the extremely gifted and equally dignified pianist Don to accompany him during a tour through the Deep South in America.  Tony, a man whose appetite for quick-money is as equally big as the amount of (junk) food he can digest, willingly accepts his new job as long as the price is right.

But soon he learns that in deciding to drive around Don Shirley, he actually signed up for a life-changing journey which will bring out the best and the worst in both of them.  During the tour, Tony’s optimism and street-smart often clash with Don’s intellectual and humane ways to approach life and oneself.  ‘Dignity always prevails Tony’ – a line that represents the movie´s moral and is often questioned throughout. Even at some point by Don.

Did I mention that Don is African-American? And that they’re driving through places like Tennessee and Alabama…during the 60s. So yeah, you could probably say that racism and humiliation play an important role in this movie.

The ultimate lesson which I take away from Tony and Don’s story is that you should never underestimate or overestimate somebody or something. I know there are many good movies out there already which tackle the same theme(s) of racism and come up with similar conclusions, but what can I say? Green Book managed to display all of this and more in a sophisticated style and tone, which isn’t always the case with contemporary movies. The only movies which I would compare to this film are The Help and BlacKkKlansman. And an additional fun fact: Octavia Spencer, who starred in The Help, was the executive producer of this movie, and the script was written by none other than Tony’s real-life son Nick Vallelonga.

The real million-dollar question is: should I go and see this movie? And the answer to that is a massive yes. Before I watched the movie, I did not read any reviews, and honestly? You shouldn’t either (she writes while typing a review). Be open-minded and let the movie surprise you.

Green Book is running from the 16th to the 21st February in the Commodore Cinema, Aberystwyth.