The critics and the Academy a few years ago had nothing but praise for Green Book. It was controversially awarded Best Picture ahead of some standout films that lets just say probably deserved it more. Just ask Spike Lee. But I guess at the end of the day it won because the Academy played it safe finding comfort in a road movie. Well that’s what some observers have concluded, including Vox who wrote a great article about it.
While I see a lot of merit in the criticism Green Book received, I still also see a lot of beauty in its powerful message of overcoming prejudices. Moreover, I guess I kind of agree with the logic behind how road movies generally make us feel good about them. In Green Book’s case, the idea of two strangers, the complete opposite of each other, sharing the road in the confine space of a vehicle and unwittingly become friends over the course of time is arguably something worth smiling about. Of course, the ingredient to any good road movie is always its premise, setting and its protagonists.
Set in the 1960’s, actor Viggo Mortensen, as a slightly beefy Tony Lip, finds himself temporarily out of work as a bouncer and takes on a new gig as chauffer and bodyguard to renowned Africian-American pianist, “Doc” Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, who is about to embark on a concert tour of the Deep South. It’s not long before this odd couple, particular Tony, start to learn some profound life lessons on the road about friendship, race and their own prejudices.
Inspired by a true story this a film that you shouldn’t miss, especially Mahershala Ali superb Best Supporting Actor Oscar winning performance. That said, many of Mahershala’s best scenes as Doc Shirley circle around trying to teach Tony about human dignity, social etiquette, or even the art of letter writing.
One of the scenes that often come to mind, which containing some warm humour, in what is otherwise a serious film, occurs during a rest stop lunch break. In this scene we find Tony trying to write a heart felt letter home to his wife Delores, while Doc Shirley sits across from him intrigued by his efforts. As the scene plays out Shirley is surprised how bad it actually is after reading it. It is here that Doc Shirley steps in to help out Tony, which remarkably gets a wonderful reaction from Delores and Tony’s family, who are all surprised by his sudden penmanship at writing romantic letters. At first while it might seem like Shirley is taking the piss out of Tony, especially his rudimentary worldview, ultimately it is Shirley’s simple gesture to give assistance to Tony, that eventually helps deepen their friendship and respect for each other.