Film – Green Book

Film – Green Book

The Green Book was a publication used by Afro Americans to determine which hotels they can stay in the segregated South if they found themselves to be travelling while black in the 1930s. It plays a small part in this film.

In Green Book, we meet Italian New Yorker Tony Vallelongar (Viggo Mortensen) in 1962 while he is working as a bouncer.

We learn of Tony’s character first through his antics while working in security and then we watch as he’s rebuked by his family who have come round to babysit his wife when they find out the tradesmen he’s called out are black. And then how he’s not sure if wants the glasses they used for a drink of water in the house and decides, better to be safe, and bins them. His wife later fishes them out, appalled at his ignorance.

Tony finds himself temporarily unemployed after his employer’s club is torched and he is recommended to a renowned classical pianist Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who is looking for a driver/bouncer/assistant. Living a comfortable and yet lonely life, the Afro-American can spend his time playing for rich New Yorkers and doesn’t have to tour the segregated deep south, but for some reason, this is the plan.

Of course on the road-trip, the uptown and downtown world’s at first collide and then they start to learn from each other and about the world and become friends. But it’s how they do this that warms your heart. There are some moments that bring back scenes from Roots and KKK to mind and I stop breathing for a few minutes. However, this is a 12a rated film and we already know about the segregation, the civil rights movement and the violence anyway..

Green Book is about Tony learning why he shouldn’t throw trash out of the car window and Don learning how fried chicken can only be eaten by using your hands. Don cannot tolerate the Italian’s bad habits and Tony can’t understand why the black man doesn’t listen to the black music he himself likes such as Little Richard and Aretha Franklin. He does learn of his loneliness as someone who’s ‘not black enough or white enough’ to be accepted by the respective societies.

It doesn’t matter that it’s not a new story, it is based on a true story (as told by Tony’s son)and they couldn’t have portrayed Tony as more cliched, racist Italian if they tried. The opening scenes of the musician on a throne reminded me of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. It’s covering the old ground of class, snobbery and race and yet something about this buddy/road movie about it completely drew me in.


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