"Green Book" is directed by Peter Farelly who, along with his brother Bobby, is the 'auteur' that gave us such classic artistic statements as "Dumb and Dumber," and "There Something About Mary." Presenting "Green Book" at the world premiere last night, Farelly, unsurprisingly, mentioned, that after 40 years in the industry, this was the first time he got to present one of his movies at a film festival. With "Green Book" he may have just delivered the most successful and rousing screening of any filmmaker this festival.
The crux of the story has Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer for an Italian-American Bronx joint, being hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who isn't actually a doctor but rather a world-class Black pianist,. Lip's job is simple, drive Don on a concert tour from NYC to the Deep South, where he must also act as bodyguard to safeguard the musician from any kind of potential racial hardships that might happen in Jim Crow law states.
The film feels like a blend of "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" and "Driving Miss Daisy," but actually is better than that and I believe it's a better movie than both. It benefits from Farelly's years of experience in comedic timing and should also be considered one of the funniest movies of the year.
The screenplay, written by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga, just feels genuine. It helps that its depiction of American racism during the 1960s blends incredibly well with the feel-good nature of the film.
I'm usually not a sucker for safe entertainment, and this film no doubt should be considered just that, but the film is such a smoothly delivered experience that, to hell with it, it counts as a major highlight of the movie year.
Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson both deserve Best Actor nominations; Viggo brings real depth to the role of an Italian-American that could have easily delved into caricature; Ditto Mahershala Ali who seems to be, at least on-screen, maybe in real-life as well, a piano virtuoso — his character is filled with restraint and the inner fight to sustain his dignity amidst the racial intolerance at hand.
Linda Cardellini, playing Viggo’s stay-at-home Italian wife, is terrific as well. "A Star Is Born" better watch its back, I think we may just have the TIFF audience winner. [B+]