‘Green Book’: The Movie That Ended Racism

Now We Can All Be Friends

I saw the Green Book movie. The title refers to the “green book” that Hollywood screenwriters consult when writing interracial buddy pictures. The ten liberal white Boomers who were in the theater at my Thursday afternoon showing seemed quite pleased, cooing along when they weren’t hacking up a lung.

In 1962, Viggo Mortensen plays a Bronx goomba with a Heart Of Gold. He lives on a movie set of Old New York with Linda Cardellini and two dumb kids. After he temporarily loses his job beating up people at the Copacabana because of Funny Mob Business, he takes a weird gig driving an eccentric black piano genius around the Deep South. The piano genius, played with Quiet Dignity by Mahershala Ali, is named Dr. Donald Shirley. Mortensen gets to be his Laverne. Together they teach us that racism is bad.


GREEN BOOK ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Peter Farrelly
Written by: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini
Running time: 130 min.


 
Laverne and Shirley hit the road in a gorgeous blue Cadillac paid for by a record company. They encounter Prejudice, and also Bigotry and also Discrimination. Mortensen, who shoves more food down his gullet than any movie character since Mr. Creosote, teaches Ali how to eat fried chicken. Ali helps Mortensen write love letters to Cardellini, who sits in the Bronx and cries the whole movie. Directed by Mr. Sperm-In-The-Hair himself, Peter Farrelly, Green Book has its heart in the right place when it comes to race. But when it comes to gender, the only women are Wives Who Cook and Bartenders.

Lessons get learned throughout the movie, though Mortensen’s character isn’t particularly racist to begin with. He doesn’t really grow at all, he’s an ethnic knight who enjoys shoplifting and eating an entire pizza in one sitting. Ali’s character has more of an arc. He learns to stand up for himself and how to play the boogie-woogie in a honky tonk. It’s kind of a weird role reversal. Mortensen ends up being a Magical White Man who teaches the black man to chill and Be Himself. At one point Ali delivers a Big Oscar® Speech In The Rain. Mortensen gives no speeches. He just lumbers around looking like he has to take a crap.

I can see why people would like this movie. It’s inoffensive and emotionally generous and competently, if not imaginatively, shot. The colors are bright, the scenery pleasant. Both main characters get plenty of laugh lines. Ali and Mortensen give full performances in what’s essentially an Afterschool Special for grownups. We certainly learn a lot about the crappy motels black travelers used to have to inhabit on the road. Ali wears some gorgeous suits. And then racism ends forever on Christmas.

This concludes my review of the Green Book movie.

 

 

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of ten semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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