My son and I attended an opening weekend showing of the film Green Book. My thirteen-year-old was far and away the youngest person in the crowd, but that’s not surprising given that he has very mature taste for his age. However, what was surprising is that I, a man in my 40s, was the second youngest person in the theater.
Yes the theater was packed to the gills with seniors. And if the quality of the movie is telling of anything, it is that seniors can pick a darn good movie.
My son and I agree that Green Book will be represented in several categories at the Academy Awards. It is a very moving, very entertaining, and very important movie.
The true story film stars Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali and Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen.
Ali plays jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley in the 1960s story. Shirley, a highly dignified Black musicians who lives in an elaborate apartment over Carnegie Hall, is set to embark on a tour through the Deep South. The South was still heavily segregated at this point in history and Dr. Shirley must hire a driver with the street smarts to get him through the dicey pitfalls they will be navigating.
That driver turns out to be Tony Vallelonga, played by Mortensen, an Italian-American bouncer who needs temporary work while the club he works at goes through renovations.
The title of the film, Green Book, comes from a manual that Tony is given by Dr. Shirley’s record label as the they begin their journey. The book is a guide of what establishments serve colored people in each Southern state. Dr. Shirley advises Tony that they will often be staying at different hotels on the tour – the Doc at colored motels and Tony at a white’s only inns.
The existence of such a book and even the need for it is surprising to Tony. As the story unfolds, the deeper south the travelers go, the more and more Tony is astonished at the inequity of races. Doc, a wealthy, educated, famous entertainer can’t even eat at the white’s only establishments he is hired to play at.
Over the course of their journey together, Tony and Dr. Shirley learn about the hidden struggles and stereotypes they each face. And, become better people from that learned understanding.
If Mortensen gets nominated in the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award he will win. If he is nominated in the Best Leading Actor category, he has a shot. Mortensen put on 50 pounds for the role and is very convincing in his role as an Italian-American, despite actually being Danish-American. In my opinion, he is a very underrated actor.
Ali is radiant in his role as piano virtuoso Dr. Don Shirley. As fabulous as he is, I don’t expect an Oscar for Ali, who became the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award last year. But he might score a nomination. That is not a dig at Ali’s performance, which is incredible, it just didn’t strike me as an Oscar lock.
I have been a fan of Ali since his performance in the television series The 4400. I always feared that his long unusual name would get in the way of fame for the talented actor, but name be damned he has achieved the highest honors in his field. It’s good to see a truly talented guy be recognized for his skills.
On a scale of one to ten, I give Green Book a solid 9.25. It is a remarkable movie. It features great performances by Mortensen and Ali and shines a light on race relations. Sadly, even today, we face racism at every turn. There has been progress, but not nearly enough.
But, I digress. The subject here is the film Green Book, and my teenage son and I both agree it will be a contender for Best Picture. The best part is, you don’t have to be a senior to enjoy it.
Peace. Love. Trust.