Movies

Movie review of "Green Book"

Feel-good race-relations drama comes by its conclusions a little too easily

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/25/19

When Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) first meets Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), after the latter applies for a job as his driver, Tony makes an assumption about the doctor title ...

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Movies

Movie review of "Green Book"

Feel-good race-relations drama comes by its conclusions a little too easily

Posted

When Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) first meets Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), after the latter applies for a job as his driver, Tony makes an assumption about the doctor title.

“I am not a medical doctor,” Don says. “I’m a musician. I'm about to embark on a concert tour in the Deep South. What other experience do you have?”

Tony Lip, as he is known to family and friends, replies, “public relations.”

Tony is the kind of muscle a New York City nightspot needs when an overzealous customer kinda gets outta hand, if you know what I mean.

In the film “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly, there is no doubt that these opposites will eventually attract. One’s a black musician steeped in aristocratic airs and the other is a heavyset Italian American guy you might see as one of the goons running with Tony Soprano. In fact, since this movie is based on real life, the real Tony Vallelonga actually played crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi on that HBO TV show before he passed in 1999.

Because the movie is set in the early 1960s, Don’s concert tour through the Deep South carries with it certain risks. That’s why Tony is hired in the first place. This was the Jim Crow era, when institutionalized racism was simply the way of life. In fact, the title of the movie is taken from a real booklet that detailed where African Americans could safely spend the night, eat a meal or enjoy a night of entertainment, segregated from white patrons.

The movie, while well acted and competently directed by Farrelly who tries his hand at something other than off-color comedies, hits all the buttons you would expect for this type of picture.

As described above, you can imagine the sorts of conflict that might arise. From encountering violent racists in a bar to hitting the brick wall of bigotry when a high-class venue that has booked Dr. Shirley’s trio to perform then refuses to let him eat in its tony restaurant. In a way, because it’s so predictable, there is a complacency that settles in. You know that whatever violence or unpleasantness these guys may encounter will eventually be smoothed over partly by the miles they travel but also because of the amiable script — which, incidentally, was co-written by Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son.

Mortensen and Ali work hard to create solid characterizations, although Mortensen sometimes veers too far into stereotype to make his character truly shine, even after Tony learns a thing or two about his employer.

In all, despite certain controversies about liberties taken by the filmmakers regarding the true relationship between Tony and Don and statements attributed to Mortensen and the director, it’s the kind of feel-good race-relations drama the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences likes: It’s a nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor (Mortensen), Best Supporting Actor (Ali), Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing.

This film costars Linda Cardellini as Tony’s wife, Dolores.

Tempo grade: C

“Title” is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Theatres Storyteller Cinema 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Shoplifters

MPAA rating: R for some sexual content and nudity.

Taos Community Auditorium

In this film written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, a Japanese couple (Lily Franky and Sakura Andô), stuck with part-time jobs and hence inadequate incomes, avail themselves of the fruits of shoplifting to make ends meet.

They are not alone in this behavior. The younger and the older of the household are in on the act. The unusual routine is about to change from carefree and matter-of-fact to something more dramatic, however, as the couple open their doors to a beleaguered young girl. The reasons for the family's habit and their motivations come under the microscope.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 27) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Jan. 28-30) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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