‘Green Book’: A he-said, she-said film review

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in “Green Book.”

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in “Green Book.”

 
 

By Marilyn and Tom Jozwik 

Published Nov. 25, 2018

A prissy African American pianist and a crass Caucasian nightclub bouncer are unlikely traveling companions on a concert tour through the Deep South in 1962. 

SHE: I loved how this movie was spare on dialogue but spoke volumes through the characters’ actions. Early in the movie we see “Tony Lip” throw away drinking glasses that were used by two black workmen at his home. Another time, Tony throws a soft drink cup out a car window with the meticulous Don “Doc” Shirley in the backseat; a moment later you see Tony backing up to pick it up. These kinds of moments are scattered throughout this tightly edited, focused show. 

HE: I found “Green Book,” named for a presumably real travel book that listed hotels that welcomed blacks back in the day, a wonderful film—my favorite of the year to date. Viggo Mortensen was born to play Tony, who hires on as Doc’s chauffeur-bodyguard when his nightclub temporarily shuts down. I loved every minute of the movie. My only complaint would be the presence of some contemporary—2018—dialogue in a story that’s supposed to be occurring in the early 1960s. And did, in fact, occur in the ’60s. It’s a true story. 

SHE: I agree. This was one movie I didn’t want to see end. Mortensen and Mahershala Ali were so enjoyable to watch. I also enjoyed seeing a movie with a linear story. No flashbacks, flash-forwards, gauzy dream sequences or other gimmicks. Just good storytelling and good acting. A joy to watch. 

HE: An evenly paced production, a dramedy with uncannily equal parts comedy and drama. I should’ve mentioned Ali along with Mortensen, and probably Linda Cardellini as Tony’s wife as well. Ali’s quite a versatile actor. I liked how his and Mortensen’s characters, traveling together, had such a great effect on each other—both learned things and became more tolerant, the streetwise tough and the brilliant artist with three doctorates. I liked that there was more to them than it seemed at first: Doc was also a loner with a drinking problem, among other troubles, and the prejudiced roughneck Tony was also a man of his word, nonjudgmental about human frailties and capable of growth. I guess opposites attract onscreen as well as in real life. 

SHE: The movie also showed how difficult life was for blacks in the South in 1962. While Shirley had no problem finding a place to eat or sleep in the North during his concert tour, once the tour veered south he was denied first-rate hotels and restaurants, even though he was performing in some of the cities’ most prestigious venues. This was by far my favorite movie of the year. I’d give it an A. 

HE: I’d give it an A also. I appreciated that, while “Green Book” wasn’t preachy, it certainly called for the acceptance of differences and painted people who weren’t accepting as rather foolish.