Sun | May 19, 2019

‘Green Book’: A not-so-true story

Published:Monday | February 4, 2019 | 12:16 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer

In 1989, a movie was released entitled Driving Miss Daisy. It starred Morgan Freeman as the driver of an elderly Jewish widow (played by Jessica Tandy) whose finest personality trait was that she was never afraid to speak her mind, no matter how awful her mind might be. Almost 30 years later, and we seem to have the reverse with Green Book, where a poor white man becomes the driver of an affluent black musician. Oh, how far we’ve come.

Except, Green Book is never the groundbreaking story it thinks it is. Its characters are embarrassing clichés, stereotypes, and borderline cartoons. Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a nightclub bouncer who has an affinity for solving problems that require a tough touch. That’s why when masterclass musician Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, embarks on a trip to the deep south, he takes it upon himself to hire Tony for protection. It is the ‘60s after all.

Green Book might be the best lifetime movie I’ve ever seen. I say that for the way the movie handles its messages. The harsh reality of racism in 1960s America is not shied away from, but the lesson is delivered in a heavy-handed manner. Still, there are a few moments when the movie feels inspired. Mahershala Ali will likely win an Oscar for his performance, which hits its peak when his character explodes at the idea of being neither black enough nor white enough to be truly accepted by either community.

The question of identity is played with well in the film and comes out mostly through the conversations between the two leads. Thankfully, the chemistry between the two is engaging, since you spend most of your time with them. You love watching their back and forth and would believe in the friendship the movie is trying to sell you on.

Was Green Book a true telling of real events? I have no earthly idea. When a movie is based on a true story, it’s safe to assume it’s not entirely authentic. Still, if the movie entertains and engages the audience, it’s enjoyable as fiction. While I was entertained by Green Book, I can’t say I was fully engaged. If it were shown on television, I might stop by to see a bit of Mortenson and Mahershala, but I’d change the channel before it made my eyes roll.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.