TIFF 2018: The Green Book24 September 2018 / by Adriel Smiley (author)
The Green Book tells an unanticipated story of an employer and employee who become friends in a way neither of them imagined. The phenomenal pianist Dr. Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali isn’t shown until he actually meets Viggo Mortenson’s character (Tony Lip) in the interview that gets Lip the job. But the film strategically starts in Lip’s home. His wife gives two black men working in the apartment a glass of water, once she walks away he throws the two glasses they drank from in the garbage. His wife finds them later and simply shakes her head. This sequence takes place with little dialogue and is the first indicator of his attitude towards people of colour. Lip is out of a job and desperately needs the money, early in the film he pawns his watch and enters a hot dog eating contest for money.
In the beginning of the film we know more about Lip then we do Dr. Shirley, an interesting decision by director Peter Farelly. As the two begin on their journey Shirley is mostly an unknown although undoubtedly the center of this story. Ali’s depiction of Shirley is poised, confident, and curious. Shirley is as polished and well spoken as a man can be in contrast to Lip who has trouble reading and writing and doesn’t care much for formalities.
The gradual progression of their friendship in this film feels authentic and sets a good foundation. Lip is impressed when he sees Shirley perform for the first time, he even writes about it in his letters to his wife saying, “He doesn’t play like a negro…He’s some kind of genius”. This is of course a huge compliment and is an illustration of the Lip’s progression of his thoughts on black people. As they travel across the Deep South they are forced to become a team, as they often find themselves in some unpleasant situations.
The tone of this film is light hearted. Despite being set in the 1960’s the racial tones of the time do not dominate the film. This atmosphere in the film makes it very enjoyable. Although billed as a drama the comedic moments in this movie are awesome and often.
Entertaining and insightful throughout. Surprisingly hilarious.