I expected not to like “Green Book,” as a cliché riddled preach-feast, which it is, but it is also a very enjoyable film. 

When you see Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali as the leads for a film, you know the performances will be stellar. But do great performances make a great film or is this just an attempt at pulling some emotional heartstrings for an Oscar-bait film?

green book movie

“Green Book”, directed by Peter Farrelly, is inspired by a true story, but who knows how accurately. One of the film’s writers is Nick Vallelonga, Tony Lip’s son.  So, I expect a bit of accuracy and a little one-sided storytelling. I will disregard the whole “is it accurate” debate and focus on a simple question: is it a good film?

Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is a working-class New York Italian looking for an Oscar… I mean, is a working-class New York Italian who works as a bouncer at the famed Copacabana where he is known as being quick-tempered, tough, and a man who sticks to his word. He is as working class as you can get, someone who is always looking for an angle, tells it like it is, doesn’t take shit from anyone, and talks too much. Tony agrees to become a driver for two months when the Copacabana is closed for renovations. In this function, he agrees to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a musical tour through the deep south in 1962.

Tony is a racist, Don Shirley is a snob who prefers to spend most of his time alone, yet somehow, they learn from each other and become friends. In this film, we have the part where they get arrested by the racist cops. We have “The Green Book” which is a list of places in the south that are welcoming to blacks. We have encounters with racist store owners and southern rich folk. And we have the moments in the film where they have to decide whether to accept and take racist encounters, or to stand up for themselves.

There is nothing new regarding what happens in this movie. This film tells a story which has already been told plenty of times. Yet, like a piece of fried chicken, some fried chicken is better than others because it’s done right like it’s done in this film. “Green Book” is full of clichés, stereotypes (like fried chicken), and is predictable all the way to the last scene, but, it also somehow manages to be a good film worth watching.

  • Director: Peter Farrelly
  • Written by: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly
  • Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
  • Rated PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Production Budget: $23 million (est.)
  • Release Date: November 2018

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” available now.