Green Book gets its title from the book ‘ The Negro motorist Green Book ‘. It is a travel guide for African-Americans to find motels and restaurants that would accept them. This book was written by Victor Hugo Green in the 20th Century. The film is based on true events that unfolded between a White Italian driver and a Black Pianist, Don Shirley. The Pianist has to embark on a tour for his music performances and hires a White Italian driver, Tony Lip, to drive him around on the tour; little do they know that this journey will transpire into a life-long friendship.
The first few scenes of the movie make it obvious as to where this story is headed. We see a white man who puts the glasses used by two black workers, into a bin. When this man accompanies an aristocrat who is black, we know the exact beats of the story and how it would end. In a premise that is predictable and far from groundbreaking, one expects the screenplay to make things interesting for the audience. The writers use humour, which is usually derived from the scruffy ways of the ill-mannered Tony and the evidently irate Shirley. Half-way through the film, the humour starts to feel forced and it becomes difficult to take the proceedings seriously. This happens because we are not invested in these two men. We are not told enough about them, nor do we see enough of them to understand them as complex beings with societal and familial struggles of their own. The scenes we see with Tony and his family are pretty generic, we know he is racist and violent but these are mere tags, we don’t really get to see the person he is until late into the film. This could just be because it is a film about journey, both metaphotic and literal and it was important that his character flesh out as the journey progresses. But this does not quite work because the screenplay is bland and the events are a little too neatly stitched together.
Don Shirley, played by Maharshala Ali is a renowned musician. A man with class, discipline and etiquette. In some revealing scenes, we see his facade of an impeccable musician, break and his vulnerability shines through these cracks, making him the more interesting character of the two. Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip is perfect. He uses his physicality to good affect, in creating a character that’s seemingly tough and reckless but peels away at the toughness as he discovers his inherent goodness and a surprising amiability. Don Shirley’s unsuccessful attempts at trying to hone Tony’s manners generate a few funny moments that are endearing and keep you engaged in an otherwise unexciting passage.
The film teasingly touches upon Tony’s family and friends. It offers an interesting aspect that the film explores. The writers hint that Tony is an impressionable man. We see his father questioning his ways with the coloured, he insinuates that he treat them as second class citizens. His friends suggest that he leaves this Black guy and join them for a job. Once Tony leaves his family and friends behind, he starts to experience life by himself and gets a chance to listen to the truths of life, instead of being fed by his father or family.
The overarching theme of Green Book is friendship. Racism is certainly one of the central themes but the film ends on a heartwarming note that solidifies the point that these two people of different race and class, come together as friends for life. The film is redeemed by some heartbreaking scenes in the later half. Every broken piece traces us to the beautiful ending of this film, by when you will find yourself mesmerized by these two broken men coming together to form a friendship.
Predictable story and weak writing, withstanding Green Book is an enjoyable film that is an interesting look at two men who are completely different yet, similarly broken. Perfect acting performances and a heartwarming ending leave you extremely satisfied. But mere satisfaction is not what one expects of a film that is the Best Picture at the Oscars.