We are recognizing “Green Book”: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali. Our Hollywood Film Tributes recognize films and talent for their excellence in the art of filmmaking.
They don’t make em like this anymore. Sometimes that’s a bit of a slight, as film has evolved over the years. In the case of Green Book, aside from a small complaint or two, it’s almost exclusively a compliment. This movie is an absolute crowd pleaser, one that almost defies you not to smile. All of the Academy Award buzz is well founded (more on that later on), creating a likable awards player that will have some big time fans within the voting community. Top to bottom, it’s so well done, you never quite mind the simplistic feel of the story.
The film is a biographical dramedy about an unlikely friendship. Set in the 1960’s, we first meet Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian working stiff in the Bronx. A bouncer at the Copacabana, he’s the sort of guy who hustles in all aspects of his life. In order to make a buck and provide for his wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) and children, he’ll do just about anything. When the Copa is closed for renovations, this leads him to interview for a driver job. It’s not just any gig though. It’ll be a two month excursion to the deep south, chauffeuring Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a talent piano player on a concert tour. Initially an oil and water mix, they break down each other’s barriers and become fast friends. Especially in the south in the 60’s, this doesn’t always bode well. Still, it all leads to a wonderful moment on Christmas Eve. Peter Farrelly directs and co-writes with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie. Among supporting players, the cast includes P.J. Byrne, Sebastian Maniscalco, Frank Vallelonga, and many more. Kris Bowers composed the score and stands in for Ali during the piano scenes, while Sean Porter handled the cinematography.
Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are a phenomenal pair here. The former gives a complex performance that continually reveals new layers. The latter turns in warm work that likely will recall a lot of folks’ family members. Of course, co-writer Vallelonga is the real life son of the Tony character, so that makes sense. Their chemistry is wonderful. Sure, the film is a bit simple and plays it overly safe, but that’s just part of its throwback quality. It also deserves credit for mixing comedy and drama in equal measure. The laughs are as much a part of the flick as the serious parts. Farrelly juggles this in a way that, frankly, I didn’t know he had in him.
Green Book is going to do well with Oscar, nomination wise. That much is certain. Universal Pictures is going to be hoping for wins too. At the very least, you can mark it down for nominations in Best Picture, Best Actor (for Mortensen), Best Supporting Actor (for Ali), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Currie, Farrelly, and Vallelonga). If the Academy really falls for it, and that’s a distinct possibility, watch out for Best Director (for Farrelly), Best Supporting Actress (Cardellini), and Best Film Editing. Be on the lookout for wins in those big four categories first mentioned too. This contender has staying power.
If you like crowd pleasers, Green Book is right up your alley. Truthfully, this movie is pretty much for everyone. You won’t be able to avoid smiling. Hell, you’ll almost assuredly be moved when all is said and done. Simply put, Green Book is a throwback, the sort of crowd pleaser of the highest order that we all too rarely see these days. The Academy will go nuts over this, though regardless of how it does Oscar wise, this is going to do a lot for all types of audiences members. Once you see the film, and you definitely should, you’ll understand why…
Photos Courtesy Universal Pictures
Editors: Carlos de Abreu and Joey Magidson [Tomatometer-approved critic]
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