Green Book, B
Rated PG-13, 130 minutes
"Green Book" is a compelling, well-acted true story that's essentially "Driving Mrs. Daisy" in reverse. The film, named for The Negro Motorist Green Book, usually referred to as "The Green Book", a segregation-era road travel guidebook to help African-Americans dealing with racial discrimination issues and Jim Crow laws, is nothing new and plays it for too many laughs, but the leads make you believe in its story.
Dr. Don Shirley (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, superbly playing against type) is a world-class African-American pianist who's about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. In need of a driver and protection, Shirley recruits Tony Lip (Oscar-nominee Viggo Mortensen), a tough-talking bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Despite their differences, the two men soon develop an unexpected bond while confronting racism and danger in an era of segregation.
"Green Book" is funny, touching and moving, thanks in part to the terrific chemistry from Mortensen and Ali, giving some heft to a story that tends to play it for too many unnecessary "Odd Couple" type of laughs. Ali is especially good playing against type as the Felix-esque stuffy professor and musician who knows what he wants, while the slouchy, Oscar character is well-inhabited by "Lord of the Rings" Mortensen, who continues to show depth as an actor.
The film has some atypical crew members too, as the film is directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly, of the Farrelly brothers, known better for low-brow comic hits like "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary." Farrelly adds a surprising amount of poignancy, particularly in the conversations the men share and how they come to enjoy one another's company, particularly when Dr. Shirley assists Tony in writing some letters his wife back home.
On the other end, Farrelly tends to play it for laughs too often and some may not find the subject matter in "Green Book" all that humorous, but the leads make you root for the characters even when the story tends to be a little shallow. The film, inspired by a real story, is both appealing enough to come up a winner, and expect to see it more this awards season.