Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
Director: Peter Farrelly
Running Time: 130 mins
Green Book is an American film about a working-class Italian-American who takes up a job driving an African-American classical pianist on tour through the Deep South in the early 1960s.
Too often are films that tackle difficult topics such as racism and the class divide expected to be dour, heavy-going and severe attacks on the harsh realities of the world, and while there is certainly a worthy place for films that do offer a more serious look at difficult issues, there’s also a place for films like Green Book.
Although admittedly a little simplistic in its approach, with a rather predictable character arc and a less-than eye-opening look into the realities of racism and the class divide, Green Book is a thoroughly likable movie, with two hugely endearing central performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, as well as good humour that blends well with a story that occasionally offers up something a little more serious, all of which makes for a film that will certainly make you smile right the way through.
There’s a lot to like about Green Book, but above all, it’s those two lead performances that make it such an endearing watch. After all, the story follows the growth of an unlikely friendship between a working-class driver and a scholarly pianist as they travel across the US on tour, and both Mortensen and Ali make that friendship absolutely wonderful to watch.
Mortensen is a lot of fun as the wise-cracking New Yorker who finds himself out of his depth when coming across the people of high society, with good energy and humour that mixes with a clearly caring and kind-hearted character to make for a hugely likable lead. Meanwhile, Ali also puts in a good turn as a more stuck-up individual, bemused at every single one of Mortensen’s bizarre habits, but also with a burning individuality that makes his character arguably the more interesting of the duo as the film goes on.
Of course, the two have excellent chemistry with one another, and that’s what really makes Green Book such a likable film. It’s a nice story about the development of a wonderful friendship, and with consistently enjoyable humour peppered throughout, I found myself smiling right the way through.
Director Peter Farrelly does a great job to make the film so endearing, putting most of the focus onto the two individuals and their relationship, rather than going for a more grandiose commentary on racial and class divides.
However, when the film does attempt to get a little more serious, that’s unfortunately where it starts to fall down. While it all starts off in fairly strong fashion, the film’s regular mentions of the injustices of racism are just a little too on-the-nose to have any real dramatic power. That’s not to say it ignores the reality of history, and there are still moments where those injustices do get under your skin a little, but there’s little about Green Book that offers a truly eye-opening or emotionally powerful account of the theme, meaning that its attempts to talk about it prove a little too cheesy and simplistic to really hit home.
And the simplistic nature of the story also proves problematic in the arc of the lead characters, as Green Book follows a fairly predictable road trip formula without ever really deviating to provide either more depth or entertainment. As far as road trip movies go, it’s a really enjoyable one, and the two leads are what make it so likable, but you can see every beat coming a mile off, whether it’s the two leads’ changing perceptions of one another, or the various obstacles they meet along the way, and that’s what makes the film feel a little too simplistic to be seen as something really special.
Overall, though, I had a lovely time with Green Book. It’s not a film that’s going to change the world, and while it occasionally hits home with its main dramatic themes, the majority of the movie is a little too simplistic to really impress in that regard. With that said, it’s a thoroughly likable movie with good humour, two great lead performances and a nice, albeit predictable story, all of which had me smiling and feeling rather cosy and upbeat throughout, which is why I’m giving Green Book a 7.9.