Known for working with his brother Bobby, Peter Farrelly has now stepped out on his own and gone are the dumb, smutty mildly offensive comedies like ‘Shallow Hal’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’, in their place comes this mildly offensive comedy drama which does little in the way of originality or making its characters as dazzlingly engrossing as they deserve to be.
Impressively talented pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is embarking on a concert tour of the Deep South and enlists former club bouncer Frank Vallenlonga, played by Viggo Mortensen, to ensure he reaches each destination on time. As Frank chauffeurs Don around, he learns to put aside his views as he sees how white people so easily mistreat a person they’re more than happy to let entertain them.
This film does absolutely nothing different to a host of other movies which focus in on absence of tolerance and racial divides, moreover it doesn’t even do it that well. Perhaps had someone with the background and understanding of Shirley taken the directorial chair, it could have been richly better in depth but instead Farrelly forgoes the harder route and tries chumming it up with a blase feel-good factor.
It’s astounding that ‘Green Book’ is scoring nominations and wins in this years awards season because it’s nothing special. It’s all been seen before, not even a Jade stone of luck can prevent this from being a ridiculously predictable tale with a cheesy Hallmark Christmas ending slapped on for good measure. The only special quality the film has going for it is in the impressive characteristics of Don Shirley; a figure I had not heard of and someone I will eagerly read up about now.
The production of 60’s America and the music featured throughout out are well conducted but it hits bum notes in just not feeling right. It’s not exactly a subtly told story of class and race differences, scenes and dialogue quite often slam you over the head with its whole “look, he doesn’t fit in with his people and white people don’t want him either.” point it’s trying to make. If the fair-to-middling humour used was toned down a bit and Farrelly had the courage to tell a deeper story then it wouldn’t feel so broad.
Viggo Mortensen feels like a knock-off Farrelly creation, his slouching and gross out mannerisms are well portrayed by the actor but he’s not much more than a stereotypical Italian-American figure who changes heart when the film sees fit. Mahershala Ali is a tremendous saving grace, he carries a lovely sense of class which radiates from his soul; the careful manner in which he moves and speaks are wonderful as is his tinkling of the ivories.
‘Green Book’ is an easy and breezy watch, one which doesn’t fall majorly flat but it’s a safe and well-tested film only just scraping a grade of middle C.
Written by Troy Balmayer
Rating – 6/10
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