TIFF 2018: Peter Farrelly's Wonderful Road Trip Comedy 'Green Book'
by Alex Billington
September 12, 2018
"It takes courage to change people's hearts." Now this is a wonderful film. So wonderful. Green Book is a comedic drama from Peter Farrelly, one half of the comedy directing duo the Farrelly Brothers, making his solo debut. This lovable road trip film is about a friendship between two individuals from "opposite sides of the track", as they say. Based on the trailer, I had a good feeling this might be something special, and it's as memorable as it looks from that footage. Green Book is a bit more mainstream than most films that play at festivals, but it's still an outstanding film that's full of heart, good humor, and honesty. I really loved this film, so much. It left me in such a good mood, and I've been thinking about it non-stop since the screening.
Inspired by the true story, Green Book is about a loud-mouthed Italian-American named Tony, played by Viggo Mortensen, living in New York City working as a bouncer for the Copacabana club. He decides to take on a job for a few months working as a driver for a Doctor. He discovers this "Doctor" is actually the esteemed musician Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, and although Tony is a bit racist himself, he becomes his friend as they drive through the Deep South on a concert tour. It's a theme we've seen in other stories, and it's a bit cliche showing a white man learning that his casual racism is actually pretty bad. But the performances from both, and the awkward but amusing chemistry they have, is undeniably charming and enchanting. Mortensen transforms entirely, and Ali matches him with his wit, and grace, and humility.
It's easy to say that Green Book is a "crowd-pleaser", and it plays out without any surprises or unexpected deviations. But it's also a beautifully made film, and it's so endearing not just because of the performances. It opens with a jazzy music number in the Copacabana, then ends in the perfect way (no spoilers here) that leaves you feeling all warm & fuzzy. The cinematography by Sean Porter is impressive, with some lovely shots that stand out yet don't distract from the story at hand. The score by Kris Bowers also works its magic in the right moments, but never becomes a distraction. The film flows so easily, and smoothly, from one scene to the next and never feels like it gets bogged down or caught up somewhere along the way. There are sincere lines of dialogue that are emotional to hear, but it doesn't linger as to make them heavy-handed.
This is one of my favorite movies I've seen this year so far. It's a blatant "feel good" story, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with that, especially with these two guys running the show. Green Book will have you smiling, and laughing, and grinning. The humor is fantastic, even if it's a bit awkward at times, it's handled very carefully by the two leads staying true to their characters, and by the director knowing what works. There's a moment in the second half where Don does something in a bar, and it cuts to Tony's "ha" reaction, something that Peter Farrelly knew to include (and cut to quickly) because he knows it will make the audience laugh and smile in turn. It's a bit cheesy but damnit so much fun, and so heartwarming to watch. I know I'll be revisiting it many times in the future. And I really hope it does change people's hearts.
Alex's TIFF 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing