In 1962 Italian-American Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortenson) is hired by African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) to be both his driver and fixer whilst on a music tour of the Deep South.
Very early in the film we are shown just what Tony thinks of black people by his reaction to a couple of workers in his home. And his racist views and his coarse behaviour and diction couldn’t be further from the refined behaviour of Don Shirley. Of course this means we are in for a road movie where two very different people learn to appreciate and respect each other, but the manner in which it’s achieved is delightful.
In amongst the racist laws that mean that Don cannot sleep, eat or even go to the toilet in certain places we are treated to two fantastic performances that show the two men getting closer to each other and changing their own perceptions. Mortenson goes for a broad character (in more ways than one) that speaks his mind and brings a lot of humour to their predicament. Whilst Ali gives a more introspective turn that shows a man alienated in many different ways.
It’s interesting to see that the director here is Peter Farrelly, best known for the films he’s made with his brother such as There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber. Using a script co-written by himself, Bryan Hayes Currie and the real Tony Vallelonga’s son Nick he has fashioned a humorous, feel good movie that highlights racism that is not too far in our past and seemingly more present now than we should like.
The Green Book of the title is a driving guide officially called The Negro Motorist Green Book published between 1936 and 1966 to help people of colour to find hotels and restaurants that would accept them throughout the south.
A film that is certainly worth your attention when it releases in the UK on February 8th 2019.