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Bucket List Pick: “Green Book” is a Tale About Friendship

2018 Movie of the Year Oscar Winner “Green Book” is a tale about understanding your fellow man and overcoming racial injustice.  It is tale about Friendship.  This film is the physical manifestation of the well-known saying “Never judge a man without walking two moons in his moccasins.”  It is directed by Peter Farrelly and stars 2018 Best Actor nominee Viggo Mortensen, 2018 Best Supporting Actor Winner Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini.

New York native Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Mortensen) was searching for a new job after he was let go from his Copacabana nightclub job due to renovations.  He has a family and needs to make money.  He goes around town hustling for money betting players in pool and hamburger eating contests to make ends-meat.  When Tony Lip is approached by a record label to drive the great “Doc” Don Shirley (Ali) around the Midwest and Deep South for an eight week tour, both of their lives will be changed forever.

Tony and Don could not be any different.  Tony is a hard, no nonsense New Yorker who has lived his life listening to his gut and acting on his instincts.  Don is a famous African American pianist who has lived a more affluent life demanding perfection and grace with every breath.  Don calls Tony’s wife (Cardinelli) to make sure it would be Ok for Tony to leave for 8 weeks.  She only had two conditions, a letter from Tony every week, and a promise He would be home for Christmas Eve.  After a negotiation of salary and expenses, Don hires Tony based on the strength of his references and his wife’s blessing.

The record label gives Tony a “Green Book” of safe hotels, filling stations, and restaurants where African American’s were welcomed.  The next day the two embark on their life changing 8 week tour around the Midwest and the Deep South.  Although the two have some rough patches in the beginning, Don and Tony begin to form a bond of friendship and respect that will last their entire lives.

As the tour progresses, Tony is awed by the talent of Don’s piano play.  He is appalled by the discriminatory treatment which Don receives from his hosts and general public when he is not entertaining them on-stage.  He begins to see life from his friend’s African American eyes and he begins to form his new character free from discrimination, prejudice, and insensitivity.

Don laments to Tony that he is a man without a place in the world.  His affluence prevents him from Identifying with his African American people, while his race prevents him from being accepted by white people.  His struggle is entertaining the very people that do not respect him as a person.  Don is impressed with Tony’s heart and loyalty and begins to realize that he may be the only true friend that he has.  He helps Tony write his love letters to his wife, imploring him to write from his heart.  (These letters were used by Peter Farrelly and Tony’s son to write the script for this great film).

Trouble begins to find the pair when they venture into the Deep South.  Racist police, bar fights, discrimination, and constant bigotry are around every corner.  It takes Attorney General Bobby Kennedy himself to get the two out of jail after an incident with police.

The culmination of the film is the ending concert where Don is refused entrance into the restaurant after being invited to perform a Christmas special for the local elite.  Tony and Don have to decide whether to play the concert and risk disappointing everyone at Christmas Eve, or to take a stand, lose the money and come home.  A Decision of principal rests with our two friends.

I thought that “Green Book” was the best film I saw in 2018.  Their 3 Oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Ali) prove that it was the Academy’s as well.  I have added it to my “Bucket List Picks” as an instant classic.  Mortensen and Ali are electric in this movie.  Their portrayal of Don and Tony will be remembered as one of the great on screen duos of all time.

The film shows how we can come together as a United People free of racism and discrimination.  No two different men have ever walked this earth.  Their learned friendship and loyalty to each other was based on respect and understanding not the color of their skin.

My favorite scene was where the two end up at an African American jazz/blues dive bar in Birmingham.  Everyone is staring and wondering why there is a white man and an African American man in a tuxedo visiting their watering hole.  After some coercion from Tony, Don takes his place at the piano and finally feels accepted by his African American people belting out popular tune after tune to raucous applause.

This film shows us that change is possible.  It doesn’t matter how you were raised, or what you were taught.  Discrimination is usually born from a lack of understanding.  It took A white Italian man and an African American man in a car for 8 weeks to show us that. I give this movie a thunderous 4 out of 4 stars and a must see for all audiences.

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