Despite the third week coming to an end of the release date of Green Book, the movie is still capturing the attention of many. Through the trailers, the movie focuses on the humorous friendship between Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen) and Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali).
However, this movie is anything but another predictable feel-good movie.
It begins with Tony Lip, a bouncer with a taste for violence that keeps the club patrons in check but when renovations closes the establishment, he’s in need for work. Desperate to provide for his wife and two kids, Tony does anything to get spare cash from pawning off his watch to entering a hot dog eating contest. In comes Dr. Shirley, with the job only describing the need of a bodyguard. When he arrives, Tony is shocked to discover the elaborate life style of Don Shirley, who later goes by “Doc,’ thanks to Tony. Doc lives above Carnegie Hall and we’re first introduced to him dressed in a beautiful robe and an elaborately decorated throne he sits upon.
The only problem: Don Shirley is black.
Tony, despite his opinions of Don Shirley’s coloring, lies to Doc because it’s either working for a black man or being roped into illegal business. Eventually Tony is hired and before leaving for the trip, he’s given The Negro Motorist Green Book or Green Book for short, which was a travel guide originally published in 1936 that listed all the places accepting African American customers. As Shirley’s other two band mates were white, they had no need for this book. Tony was instructed to reference this book if he ever had trouble finding a place for Doc and then to pick him up later in the morning and continue on the tour.
Flash forward and Tony, Doc and the rest of the musical trio embark on the eight week tour across country, all the way into the Deep South (yes, the Deep South, hence the need for a bodyguard). It takes both characters a while for either to warm up to each other but it shows through the connection of understanding and realization.
This movie tastefully reveals hints of the problems that African Americans faced during the times of segregation. There was plenty of banter between the two eventual friends, but it didn’t come easily or quickly. Tony had to overcome his prejudice and Doc had to come to terms with his own identity. This movie is just as much about friendship between two individuals, as it is about self-acceptance and identity (both the identity of self-perception as well as outside stereotypes).
Green Book is a movie based on the true friendship that spawns in a time where no one thought might be possible, with all the odds against them: a white and black man during the time of Jim Crow Laws. A sloppy unrefined Italian man and a bit too stuck up musician. One used to the hustle and bustle of the crowded city and the other used to fine dinning. One that doesn’t know the difference between the beginning address of a letter, “dear,” and the animal and the other writes words as beautiful as a poet.
Living in different worlds, they somehow meet and continued to be friends until they parted and passed within months of each other. Whether one goes for the sweet friendship that blossoms, the historical notes that the story touches upon or the beautiful cinematography, Green Book is a movie to see before it leaves the theaters.