I'm not oft one for writing a film review, despite frequenting cinemas so often it could be my day job. From Bohemian Rhapsody last week (better late than never), to Mary, Queen of Scots on Monday (name a more iconic duo than Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan), watching movies is one of life's greatest pleasures. But when my screening of Green Book started approaching, as did my craving for an early night at home. After some deliberation, I did a quick Google search to find that the film had an elusive 8+ rating on IMDB and had cleaned up at the Golden Globes, winning Best Comedy, Best Screenplay, and supporting actor (Mahershala Ali), meaning it was tipped to win big at the Oscars in February (update: today, it won Best Picture). My unmade bed could wait.
Green Book, which is based on a true story and named after a brochure containing hotels and restaurants black travellers were permitted to stay in the south (yes, that really existed), is directed by comedy veteran Peter Farrelly and stars Viggo Mortensen and Ali. It follows Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen), an Italian-American bodyguard from the Bronx, and Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), the black pianist Tony is hired to chauffeur and protect while touring the deep south in 1962.
From the get-go, it's obvious Tony and Don are an unlikely pair - and it's also obvious, they'll end up forming a friendship despite their differences. Tony lives in the Bronx, is never seen without a cigarette in his mouth and uses racist slurs to describe two black men when he wakes to find them working in his home, before throwing the glasses they used in the bin. Don is highly educated, wealthy and prides himself on being upper class. He speaks eloquently, dresses well and, until he met Tony, had never eaten without using a knife and fork. Despite the plotline being glaringly obvious, Green Book - and the brilliance of its two lead actors - manages to hold your attention, make you laugh out loud, and make you feel overwhelmingly upset about what minority groups were - and still are - put through.
The issue some critics find with Green Book is that it's a token Hollywood spin on America's incredibly problematic history: It's a feel-good comedy when the issues of racism, which still prevail especially in the areas shown in the film, are still very real. But while you do find yourself smiling and, at times, laughing aloud in Green Book, it by no means is an easy watch right the way through. The entire movie is dotted with situations that make your skin crawl: In one scene, Tony and Don are pulled off the road by police because it's against the law for black people to be out after dark. In another, Don is beaten up by three white men for daring to get a drink in a bar, and, despite being the main act at the establishment, is asked to use the outhouse, rather than the white toilets.
Yes, if you want to dissect it, there are parts of Green Book that could have been handled better, such as the way it was revealed that Don is gay and the conversation (or lack thereof) to follow, but all in all, this is a film that educates, makes you feel good and which showcases some incredible acting.
If you're going to see anything this month, make it Green Book.