Director Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” a film based on the complicated, real-life friendship between New York bouncer Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), takes place during the civil rights era of the 1960’s. The characters’ chemistry, as well as the the leads’ outstanding performances, especially Mortensen, carry “Green Book” to success.
Tony, in need of extra money, picks up a job as Don’s driver during a tour of the Deep South. This movie is well-crafted, riveting and, most importantly, entertaining from its opening to its final scene.
The complexity of each of the two lead characters and their relationship make the film highly entertaining. Both actors have a charisma that, in addition to their chemistry, is a pleasure to watch. Their banter is charming and heartwarming. Some of the best scenes in the movie are of the the two of them driving down the highway. Their traditions and cultures clash with one another in comical scenarios, such as a particularly funny scene where Shirley tries fried chicken for the first time. Both lead roles demand eccentric personalities — the stingy, stubborn Tony or the stoic, high class Don — making their success all the more entertaining.
The plot is simple, yet has the potential to fall victim to the choppy flow of the story as the narrative jumps from city to city every 10 minutes. However, despite a runtime of 130 minutes, the film is perfectly paced. Every scene is engaging and the variety of locations give way to a wide range of situations for the duo to get into.
As the story progresses, Don and Tony travel deeper into the South and find themselves in progressively more dangerous situations. The film uses these moments to make social commentary and to test the characters and their morals constantly. Throughout the movie, similar themes recur, including segregation, that show how the characters learn from one another and change how they react to and deal with oppression. Additionally, these scenes are expertly put together, packing suspense as the fate of the duo’s entire journey rests on these situations.
“Green Book” isn’t shy when it comes to commentary on social class, either. The lead characters themselves are of different socioeconomic classes. Tony comes from a lower class, struggling to support his family, while Don is a world-class musician who lives on top of Carnegie Hall. This discrepancy causes the two’s values to clash quite a bit, making for some tense and impactful scenes, as well as some hilarious ones.
In addition to the well-rounded characters and perfectly paced story, the film’s set design and costumes are vibrant and beautiful. From the opening scene, during a musical performance in a bar, everything from the suits and the lighting give the film life. This carries on throughout the film via stunning visuals and cinematography.
Farrelly’s “Green Book” is a near-perfect cinematic experience. It is one of the funniest movies of the year, while also being one of the most adept at traversing intense subjects that, despite taking place during the 1960’s, are still relevant today.