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The Green Book Review – Four Stars! Brilliant, Inspired, Heartwarming

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The Green Book, from Universal Pictures, Dreamworks and Participant Media, presents the true story of piano virtuoso Don Shirley and his driver, Bronx bouncer Tony Vallelonga, and their encounters as they toured the deep south in 1962.

Directed by Peter Farrelly, The Green Book stars Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortsensen, Linda Cardellini, Dimiter D. Marinov, Mike Hatton, Don Stark, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jenna Laurenzo, P.J. Byrne, Nick Vallelonga, Brain Stepanek, Iqbal Theba, Joe Cortese, Tom Virtue, Daniel Greene, Tracy Brotherton and Paul Sloan. The Green Book was written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly with Octavia Spencer on board as Executive Producer.

The Green Book begin at the iconic Copacabana, circa 1962, where Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a Italian American, worked as a bouncer. He never missed an opportunity, to distinguish himself with the neighborhood power. As the film opens, the Copa is closing for renovations.

After about a week of picking up a few bucks here and there he gets a call from a friend explaining a doctor is looking for a driver. Of course, as his wife Delores, played by Linda Cardellini, reminds him the rent is due. He heads downtown to 58th and Sixth, Carnegie Hall, looking for the doctor.


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Walking into this palatial New York City apartment, ornately decorated with artifacts from cultures and cities throughout the world, Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, enters the room. Regal in dress and poised in appearance, he speaks without accent and enunciates his words perfectly and speak carefully. The opportunity is two months and will be well compensated, he is part chauffeur, part valet, part assistant and also part stage manager.

Tony, a man’s man, made it clear ironing the suit and laundering the clothing is outside of his boundaries and while he needs to job, he doesn’t need it that bad.

Within a week, Mr. Shirley contacts him and after speaking to his wife, the two begin a road trip that ultimately changes both their lives. As they are leaving New York, the record producer, gives Tony instructions on the seriousness of Mr.Shirley making each of the concert performances and hands him The Green Book, which details the list of establishments throughout the south that provide accommodation for African Americans.

As the trip begins and as most understand, traveling together can be a challenge. Tony and Don are two very different people, from very different backgrounds and each have built walls and protective barriers to deal with the world in which they live.

Northern concert dates are without incident, and the trip begins to strip away the layers of civility as the two reach deeper and deeper into the segregated south.

We see, even for a man of Dr. Shirley’s stature a piano prodigy invited to train at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music, a classical virtuoso, played for three presidents, invited to play with the best Philharmonics around the world, he is barely afforded the dignity of a house slave when he is not sitting at the piano.

These intensely resonating strikes against his persona by those who are allegedly influencers, who possess wealth, a belief in a white only god, who are supposed to be those who are leaders see only another black entertainer. This one has nothing to offer outside his mastery of the keys.

To say I enjoyed The Green Book is an understatement. With brilliant character driven performances, the film presents a layer of life few knew existed.

There are many things I enjoyed about the film. It was emotionally driven, one felt the outrage of certain denigrating situations. The director made the time and season clear. It was obvious they were in the segregated south, where even Italian Americans were not welcome after sundown, let alone those driving an African American around.

We also see the insidious practice of segregation wasn’t limited to the hatred of the “colored.” Anyone outside of Aryan white blood line fell into the category. Although, “white” and “colored” were the visible practice.

The Green Book also shows the journey of two vastly different people, who grow to respect and admire the other.


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When it comes to the performances, The Green Book is essentially a two hander, with Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, and the chemistry between the two had to captivating. The characters driven performances translate so well on screen. The acting is brilliant. They are each intriguing and engaging. The performances are strong contenders and expected to he around during awards season.

My first reaction after attending the AFI Film Festival presented by Audi presentation was this will defiantly mix things up for this year’s Oscar race.

The Green Book is a feel good film, with exceptional performances. Truly a great film, The Green Book defines a period of time, rises above circumstance, and becomes and inspiration.

The Green Book opens in select cities November 16, 2018 and on Thanksgiving Day everywhere. See it!

 

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