Directed by Peter Farrelly, co-written by Peter Farelly, Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie, and starring Viggo Mortensen (as Tony Lip) and Mahershala Ali (as Dr. Don Shirley), Green Book is based on a true story about an unlikely friendship between a street wise, rough around the edges (that is putting it mildly and kindly… Tony was actually somewhat of a thug – I only use the term “somewhat” because being a thug was how he earned his living so I’m cutting him some slack), Italian-American man from the Bronx and a scholarly, worldly, sophisticated, Jamaican-American man from Harlem in the early 1960s and how they used the The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide; USA Alaska Bermuda Mexico Canada, a/k/a The Green Book to navigate their travels through the South during the Jim Crow era.
This is my new favorite Christmas movie, or should I say anti-Christmas (meaning it takes place around Christmas, but isn’t necessarily about Christmas) movie, again, keeping in mind that among my other favorite “Christmas” movies are Die Hard and The Long Kiss Good Night. I already knew about/had heard of The Green Book, but I have never ever heard anything about Dr. Shirley or his music. How could it be that I’ve never heard of this genius?! He is another incredible “hidden figure” and I’m so happy some portion of his story was told. And watching Mahershala play! Just. Wow! I couldn’t tell whether he was actually playing or not and had to google it to be certain. I mean, no one can expect the man to learn to master piano on Dr. Shirley’s level in a lifetime, much less in months but he sure did make it look good. Ali’s posture and keyboard skills are seriously impressive and may be Oscar-worthy on their own.
Green Book is co-written by Tony Lip’s son, Nick. It’s sort of a “bro” movie where the character development felt as though I were on this road trip with these characters and watching them bond. Their relationship becomes its own character, as it changes and grows along with the two men. The difference between what the characters were like when the movie started and when it ends is satisfying.
Could you imagine a two month road trip with a stranger? You can’t not get to know a person you are stuck in a car with for that long. (In reality, the tour lasted longer than 2 months, but for purposes of the movie the time was condensed. I can’t think of one person on the planet I would want to road trip with for two months without them getting on my last damn nerve.)
In Green Book two people who would otherwise not have spent much time together under very many other circumstances learned about one another, and most importantly, they talked to one another. They broke down preconceived notions they each had about one another. Eventually they helped one another in areas of their lives which merited an intervention. Dr. Shirley disarmed an entire family’s and the surrounding communities’ mindset regarding racism. He worked to help Tony improve his diction, writing, emotional responses, etc. and Tony encouraged Dr. Shirley to reconnect with his brother and let loose and laugh sometimes; to trust and be able to rely on someone other than himself. Tony allowed Dr. Shirley to see that everything in life doesn’t have to be “intellectualized.”
I always enjoy a movie where the two main characters are men since it seems there are so few dramas which feature men and examine their friendships, emotions and issues and the characters actually grow, learn, and evolve. Don’t have any statistics to back that statement up and I don’t have time to research right now. I am very far behind and I have to move on to the next movie…
Green Book earned 9 out of 10 bloops. It’s a well-acted, tightly written, beautifully shot, original movie with excellent performances and a message. Oh yeah – and there’s Christmas! I look forward to learning more about Dr. Shirley and his life.
Since seeing Green Book (it took me at least two weeks to post about it as I’ve been unwell) I’ve learned Dr. Shirley’s family won’t see the movie and says it is full of lies (he had eaten fried chicken before, he wasn’t estranged from his family. (In all fairness, Shirley’s character stated he was busy with his work and it was difficult to stay in touch. Busy with his work doesn’t equal estrangement; semantics.) This is called poetic license. The phrase “based on true events” does not equal the gospel. Stories are always told with a skew which will more than likely include the protection, perspective and biases of whomever may be doing the story telling, and in the case of movies, how the information can best be formatted/packaged/presented in a 2 hour movie that makes sense that people will pay to see.
It’s Hollywood. Thank God it’s not a history book (a whole ‘nother conversation. Don’t even get me started…) and only a movie. Things get bent out of shape, turned around, revised, deleted and added to “true” stories all the time. A prime example is Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie which has been proven to be chock full of amended history and slick Hollywood storytelling. (My review in the link. I loved it, and if I watch that Live Aid performance once more…)
Green Book is told through the lens of a third party, Tony Lip’s son, so no one involved was in that car and on the road with these two men. Lip’s son knows what his father and Dr. Shirley told him and has the actual letters Shirley helped Lip write. The name of the movie is not the Dr. Don Shirley Story. It is about both men, how they met and how their relationship developed.
It’s unfortunate the Shirley family is not happy with this film. Not that any of them asked, but my advice is this – if you want a story told the way you want it told, start writing it and tell it. I’m sure there is so much more material in the life of such an amazing man and this one snippet is just the tip of the iceberg. That is a movie that I, for one, would pay to see. (I would also like to see a movie about Victor Hugo Green, author of The Green Book and how he compiled and organized his information.)
Thank you for reading. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, hit the “follow” button and enter your email address to subscribe to bloopbymimi, and never miss a review; or you can follow me on twitter (which I must get more savvy with and active on!) @bloopbymimi1
1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m Seeing Next
Too much to say right now. I’ve been ill lately and unable to get to the movies like I’d like to. I’ll have something new up soonest.
Please let me know if I’ve got typos in this post. I just wanted to get it up today and didn’t have much proofreading time. Thank you.
The Hate U Give
A Star is Born
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
A Simple Favor
Support the Girls
Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Sorry to Bother You
Avengers: Infinity War
You Were Never Really Here
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
The Florida Project
Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World
The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro