Green Book (2018)

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Critic Consensus: Green Book takes audiences on a surprisingly smooth ride through potentially bumpy subject matter, fueled by Peter Farrelly's deft touch and a pair of well-matched leads.

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When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on "The Green Book" to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger-as well as unexpected humanity and humor-they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

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Critic Reviews for Green Book

All Critics (223) | Top Critics (35)

First-rate execution can't solve all of a film's problems, but Mortensen and Ali offer a reminder that it can solve an awful lot of them.

Dec 18, 2018 | Full Review…

Call this actors' duet sentimental and simplistic at your own peril. Green Book may well move you, possibly to tears, at the thought of real social change and kindness (at a time when we need it badly).

Dec 6, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Green Book is effective and affecting while being careful to avoid overdosing its audience on material that some might deem too shocking or upsetting.

Nov 22, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

A well-meaning but glib and shallow ode to interracial healing.

Nov 21, 2018 | Full Review…
NPR
Top Critic

This is an expertly-acted, perfectly telegraphed message movie that knows the buttons it's pushing, and pushes them all, right on cue. This is not a knock against it, it's a compliment.

Nov 21, 2018 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

A heartfelt ode to the bond between two real-life men.

Nov 21, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
Newsday
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Green Book

Sadly, didn't end racism, but still very cute.

Gimly M.
Gimly M.

Super Reviewer

Green Book plays like a twenty-first century rendition of Driving Miss Daisy, a well-meaning and relatively gentle movie about race relations where a prejudiced white person comes about thanks to their firsthand friendship with an African-American male. It's reportedly inspired by the true story of Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a nightclub bouncer, driving around a famed pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), as he performed throughout the South in 1962. The best part of the movie is the character interaction between this odd couple, and you'll get plenty of it too. The actors burrow into their very distinctly conflicting characters, so it's a natural pleasure to watch them eventually bond and learn from one another. This is the kind of racism that doesn't make people feel too uncomfortable, and you could say that about the film as a whole. It's a bit safe and has its intentions set on being a big, inclusive crowd-pleaser, and it plays like one. There are moments to make you laugh, moments to make you cheer, and moments to make you tear up. Morstensen and Ali are terrific together and find dignity and humanity in characters that could have easily become one-note stereotypes. The more we learn about Dr. Shirley the more interesting he becomes, a man used to feeling like an outsider no matter the company he keeps. Watching the two men grow and open up to one another can be heartwarming and deeply satisfying. Remarkably, the film is directed and co-written by one half of the Farrelly brothers, the pair responsible for ribald comedies like There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. It's an easy movie to fall for, with its winning formula and enjoyable actors, but there's a little nagging concern I have that Green Book is too safe, too straight, and too pat in its life lessons. Despite its Best Picture win, it's not like Driving Miss Daisy has any lasting cultural impression, and I wonder if maybe Green Book is destined for the same. Still, the acting and writing is enough to bring a smile to your face and remind one's self about the power of kindness. Nate's Grade: B

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

Usually, when a film is made and has very little depth in terms of storytelling, it would be forgotten about, but if you have a unique take on a specific story and the point of the movie is to keep it simple and explore only one facet of history. Personally, I prefer when stories are a little more fleshed out, but I also believe this simple story in Green Book is one of the best films of 2018. This is a movie that cares about its characters first and foremost and we donâ(TM)t see many of those films hitting the big screen very often, so this was a pleasant surprise. Although thereâ(TM)s not much meat to the story (which may bore some viewers), I found Green Book to be a fantastic piece of filmmaking. Fired from the downtown club and forced to take any job he can in order to support his family, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) decides to take on the role of driving pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) across the South, as he and his band perform for audiences. With the inclusion of the fact that Don is an African-American man in the 1960s and Tony being an Italian-American, many racial occurrences arise for these two. Being an unlikely pairing for that particular decade, these characters needed to be like-able and completely fleshed out in order for this film to work and those two aspects were absolutely astoundingly well-done in my opinion. This also stems from a particularly great turn by director Peter Farrelly. Although his earlier work on films like Dumb and Dumber and Thereâ(TM)s Something About Mary are very commendable outings, his recent comedies havenâ(TM)t exactly struck gold. Having his last few films being Dumb and Dumber To, Hall Pass, and The Heartbreak Kid, I was very worried about him taking on a more dramatic film. After watching this film, I felt ridiculous even thinking that, because not only has he shown maturity as a director this time around, but also completely understood how to blend his sense of humour with a more meaningful premise. If he sticks with this style of filmmaking, I can definitely see his name in the public eye more often in the coming years. The way he handles his performers here was truly something special. As I said, it truly is the character arcs that carry this film and without amazing performances, this movie wouldâ(TM)ve been forgotten. Mortensen and Ali both give their all in these roles and it shows. There wasnâ(TM)t a single moment where I found myself scratching my head or not believing a decision they made or line of dialogue they spoke. In the vein of films like Driving Miss Daisy or even Before Sunrise, the conversations are the reason this film doesnâ(TM)t feel slow. Thereâ(TM)s hardly a single exciting scene and the movie clocks in at nearly 140 minutes. Thatâ(TM)s when you know the dialogue has been written very well by the trio in Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly. In the end, I canâ(TM)t see everyone loving this film, due to the slow pace it has, but itâ(TM)s a breezy crowd-pleaser nonetheless. This movie has been generating major awards consideration and I think it deserves every bit of it and then some. I loved my experience watching this movie and I canâ(TM)t wait to revisit it and take this journey with these characters again. Funny, sad, and heartwarming, Green Book easily earns the title of being one of the best feel-good movies in recent memory (at least to me). I loved this movie and I canâ(TM)t recommend it enough.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

DRIVING ME CRAZY - My Review of GREEN BOOK (3 Stars) How many times have you heard people say, "They don't make 'em like they used to"? In the case of GREEN BOOK, a classically made, impeccably performed and written film, I wondered to myself, "Should they?". Sometimes it's difficult to separate a film from the time in which it's been made, and for me, we have what amounts to a pleasant yet reductive film which my 1989 self would have enjoyed a whole lot more than I did in 2018. In actuality, I found DRIVING MISS DAISY pretty insufferable even back then, so maybe I've always had a problem with racism filtered through a white perspective. GREEN BOOK, inspired by a true story, tells the tale of a vulgar Italian bouncer named Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) who, in 1962, gets hired by Dr. Don Shirley (Maershala Ali), an effete, accomplished pianist who lives above Carnegie Hall, to drive him around the country on a two month national tour, protecting him from the dangers of the racist South. Their unlikely friendship informs this lightly comedic, heartwarming tale. Director Peter Farrelly (THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY), who co-wrote the script with Brian Hayes Currie and Tony's real life son Nick Vallelonga employs slick, classic filmmaking style where the images look pretty and the pace keeps the beautifully delineated script humming along for its entire run. The jokes land, the character development feels refined and earned, the lump hits the throat in the third act just where intended, but the entire approach feels wrong. In a year in which the black experience has seen a creative renaissance with such films as BLACKKKLANSMAN, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, to name a few, GREEN BOOK feels safe. In the past, racism needed a white perspective with such films as IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, CRY FREEDOM, and MISSISSIPPI BURNING. Through that lens, filmgoers could look at the issue as something in the past, allowing the sympathetic character to serve as their own window into this world. Tony's wife Dolores (a terrific Linda Cardellini) fills that role in GREEN BOOK. We can all say, "That would have been me!" It offers the viewer a safety net in order to make the horrors of racism more palatable. As someone who grew up in a fairly racist small town in Ohio, it was ugly and wrong and stupid. It didn't feel better that there were nice people who meant well when the systemic problem overrode all of that. I'll never forget the time one of my high school teachers stood up in front of the classroom and said she would never hire a black person for a job that a white person could do. Everyone stayed silent, although I'm proud to say at a later time, I used her words against her. The fact that she didn't lose her job proved that good intentions meant nothing in a society built on allowing such racism. I'm not saying the story of GREEN BOOK shouldn't be told. It truly means well. Mortensen and Ali invest their characters with a tremendous amount of heart, both maintaining dramatic tension throughout. A case can be made, however, that at its core, the film is a populist Christmas movie in which a tight Yule hug can save the world. In 2018, at a time when the flames of racism have been fanned by a President keen on dividing a nation, GREEN BOOK would have benefited by telling its story entirely from Don Shirley's point of view. Instead of what amounts to an unusual buddy movie, how about putting us in that back seat along with Shirley and digging into his inner life? His exterior gets a lot of traction with his hand gestures, his beatific smile every time he finishes one of his glorious numbers, and his snobby leers at Tony's lack of culture and class. Because we spend more time in Tony's shoes, we lose Don's key decision-making points. Two examples would be when Tony has to come rescue Don from two perilous events. Had we stuck with Shirley when he initiated these moments, we would have felt his fear, his naiveté, and his humiliation that much more. I applaud the fact that this film shows a different type of black experience with the roles reversed from what we've grown accustomed to seeing. It would have had so much more power, however, had it stayed strictly with Shirley and let us feel what it truly was like to sit in the backseat with a man-child at the wheel, with danger lurking around every corner, and with feelings of alienation within his own community. Shirley's "otherness", which I won't spoil here, gets addressed and dismissed with a handful of lines. I would have loved to have seen what a filmmaker like Dee Rees would have done with it, since MUDBOUND perfectly addressed both a white and black perspective so well. The joy of Farrelly getting to make a film unlike anything he's done before and in a style he's clearly dreamed of attempting for so long gets overshadowed by the fact that GREEN BOOK, more than anything else, feels like a very nice, easily digestible missed opportunity.

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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