Green Book is a film based on a true story directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The film tells the story of an Italian bouncer named Tony Lip who is hired by a world-class African American piano player named Don Shirley to serve as his tour driver from Manhattan to the Deep South. Keep in mind that this film takes place during the Jim Crow era, so a black man touring touring in the Deep South seems very brave.
Throughout the film we see Lip and Shirley slowly grow to like each other. However, the first interaction between these two fellows is not off to a good start. You can clearly see that Lip’s total ignorance and discrimination towards African Americans and Shirley’s sophistication and intelligence do not really seem to line up. We also see Lip’s ignorance regarding Blacks in the middle of the film as well. For example, Lip offers him fried chicken on a car ride, and when Shirley turns it down, Lip says, “Why not? You people love fried chicken.”. This clearly shows that the main character is affected by stereotypes.
This was the single greatest film I have seen all year, hands down. From what I have said so far, it may seem unpleasant because of Lip’s racism, but the film is a lot more than that. This film is uplifting, bittersweet, emotionally-fulfilling, educational (to some extent), and really well-made. The main theme of this film is not racism or discrimination, which one might think from the opening scenes, but rather it is two polar opposite people growing to like each other, as well as overcoming racism.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the film is watching Lip’s experience with Shirley help him overcome his racism. As I previously mentioned, the interaction between these two was not off to a good start, with Lip’s ignorance and Shirley’s intelligence clashing. One thing I definitely noticed while I was watching this film was how amazed Lip was by Shirley’s phenomenal piano playing. Throughout every concert that Shirley played, you can see in Lip’s eyes how impressed he was. The special thing about this is how it helps Lip overcome his racism. He realizes that blacks and whites are capable of doing the same thing. Not only does he come to that realization, but he also just grows to like Shirley as a person not only through his talent but also by spending a long period of time with each other. Let’s say that you had to spend two hours in a room with your worst enemy, both people would find at least two things in common. We eventually see Lip overcoming racism when Lip returns home from his trip. When he sits down at the dinner table, his father asks, “how did that tootsie roll treat ya?” Lip looks at him and says, “don’t call him that.” His wife looks at Lip shocked, glad to see Lip a changed man.
Shirley’s struggle in the American Jim Crow society is really moving and emotional. Shirley says that he is not accepted into his own African American society because he is rich and he acts differently than them. He also says that Whites accept him when he is performing, but when he steps off the stage, he is “just another n**** to them.” When Shirley says this to Lip with tears in his eyes, it really hit me hard. To me, any film that can make me cry is a good film.
The film had great acting, was directed beautifully, captured the characters’ actions really smoothly with camera angles such as the Dutch (which is essentially a tilted angle, which makes the subject looks like it’s tilted), and had emotional, funny, and uplifting elements. It is clear that the entire crew of the film put a lot of effort into it, and I have nothing but respect for them. I highly recommend this film.