Peter Farrelly is known for silly sometimes raunchy Hollywood comedy. Together with his brother, Bobby, the director duo are known for iconic and outrageous popcorn comedies such as Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, Shallow Hal and Me, Myself & Irene. Green Book is without a doubt the most mature film that Farrelly has directed and possibly owing to the fact that it’s been almost 25 years since Ben Stiller found something hanging from his ear. Or maybe… Peter just isn’t as crazy without his partner in crime.
It may be more serious in tone, but it’s still very much a comedy with all the bells, whistles and understated bromance. The story follows a working class Italian-American bouncer who finds himself jobless for two months. Nabbing an opportunity to drive an African-American classical pianist on a tour of American South, they both shape and shift each other’s perceptions as well as the people around them. It may sound a bit like Driving Miss Daisy or The Intouchables with a role reversal in both instances, but it’s based on a true story… so who can argue with that?
“Hahahaha… hooo… am I?”
Watching the trailer for Green Book gives you a good idea of whether this will be your kind of movie or not. One surprise was to discover that Green Book stars Viggo Mortensen. The actor has been chalking up one terrific performance after another in his bid for a golden statuette and has almost shaken off the Aragorn image completely with a series of singular, solid to brilliant turns. Almost unrecognisable in this performance, he’s packed on the kilos and made the New York Italian-American accent second nature. Moving from playing a complete opposite in Captain Fantastic, Mortensen demonstrates why he’s one of the finest actors working today… shedding his skin for a much bulkier frame.
An unassuming lead, the gaudy Chris Farley-esque bouncer is counterbalanced by Moonlight’s towering Mahershala Ali, who is controlled, gentle, dignified and guarded. You wouldn’t ordinarily expect the two to have chemistry on paper, but they lay it on thick as two men from completely different worlds. Trying to get along, influence each other for the better (whatever that means), they go about chastising, ribbing and helping one another in a funny and even touching road movie. One a gifted mentor and the other, a bodyguard chaffeur, ready to rumble with the racist element in the South, it becomes a case of the wing man tapping in to rescue his dignified and resolute boss.
The changeover is refreshing, exploring race relations quite frankly and not pulling any punches from a time in America when racism was a rich tradition in some parts and so-called negro travelers would have to adhere to a book of coloured-friendly motels and hotels. Beautiful vistas, immersive mis-en-scene and many clever insights into the day and age make for a compelling, incisive and engaging movie. Crisp writing, memorable characters, plenty of feel good fun and a transportative trip into the mindset of 1962 America make for a heartfelt and all-round film.
While it’s not a politically correct film, it’s a timely, thoughtful and enjoyable enough to overcome its limitations and “white saviour” tag. Rich in entertainment value, finely crafted enough to serve as an art film and just crowd-pleasing enough to ensure you’ll watch it again one day, it makes for a life-affirming, deeply human film experience. Laden with a number of deserved Oscar nominations, it’s a strong contender and well worth your time, even if you aren’t a Farrelly brothers fan.
The bottom line: Inspiring