Peter Farrelly’s Oscar-winning film Green Book has proven to be a divisive film for audiences, which is strange considering it fits the bill to be a general crowd-pleaser.
It seems the main beef some have with the movie involves the narrative priorities in Green Book. Some say it glosses over the bigger pictures of racism, social tensions of the 1960s American South, and the titular Green Book (a document citing which places were “okay” for people of colour). I agree to an extent that Green Book doesn’t fill bigger shoes, but I also believe that isn’t the film Peter Farrelly has set out to make.
As with Farrelly’s stronger comedies he’s made with brother Bobby (Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, Hall Pass, and even The Three Stooges), Green Book uses the “buddy film” formula to tell a story about the creation of a relationship between two different people – people who perceive each other as stereotypes only to learn that personalities are not skin-deep.
It’s a modest arc between Italian-American bounder Tony (Academy Award nominee Viggo Mortensen) and famed African-American musician Dr. Donald Shirley (Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali). Together, they share the road as Tony – a hired driver – transports Donald to his next gig on his tour of the South. With each stop, they experience different prejudices. These confrontations serve as eye-openers for Tony, as Shirley sighs and musters his way through assumptions he’s experienced throughout his life. These sequences are purposely difficult to watch, but the discussions these men have afterwards are delivered through heartfelt performances and dialogue that truly emphasizes the learning curve that is always in motion for these characters.
But, Green Book is also gut-bustlingly hilarious during more casual conversations between Tony and Donald. The underlining clash between Tony and Donald – whether it’s cultural or trivial – provides lots of subtle, reactionary comedy for Mortensen and Ali. And as for director/co-writer Peter Farrelly, Green Book is exactly the stepping stone the filmmaker needed in his career; proving he can handle deeper material while also playing within his appropriate brand of broad comedy.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie