Monday, December 3, 2018

'Green Book'

Have only good things to say about Green Book, the movie I saw last night. One rarity was that everyone whom I know who has seen it has exulted about how good it is. This time they were all correct. It is a gem.

The two leads--Viggo Mortenson and Mahershali Ali--are not exactly household names. Mortensen was making some good pictures a few years back but has been less prominent of late. This superb rendering of an oft-presented character--the prototypical Italian-American from the Bronx--should get him award attention, as should also be the case for Mahershali Ali, who's appeared in Moonlight and the final Hunger Games film, neither of which I happened to see.

Mortenson has been in a bunch of pics I also have not seen, except for a small supporting role in Witness, some years back. I didn't recognize most of the rest of the cast, but all performed well. 

The key to the success of this movie, however, as is almost always true, is the writing. Director Peter Farrelly is one of the three writers, along with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie. They all deserve huge credit for providing a top-notch script. I did want to see this picture but was also worried that its subject would be sentimentalized or simplified or exaggerated or any one of numerous ways it could have been messed up.

Instead, this tale of a brilliant black musician who's been everywhere and knows multiple languages and a parochial white driver clicks astoundingly well as they move along on a road tour that winds its way toward the Deep South. Each stop brings forth a different aspect of the racism prevailing there in 1962, in case we forget how recently this was the way things were when you travelled not very far past the Mason-Dixon line.

The incidents are presented effectively, without needless exaggeration because what happens is bad enough when played straight. And the picture is not preachy, but filled with plenty of humor, and avoids what I would regard as obvious and demeaning joking between the black and white pair. Done this way, a movie can provide terrific entertainment and carry a valuable message that is more likely to prove effective.

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