Green Book
Black Pianist Tours Segregated South with White Chauffeur in Road Trip Dramedy

Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) was a promising prodigy whose formal training in classical piano began when he was admitted to Russia’s prestigious Leningrad Conservatory at the age of 9. Because he had the misfortune of being raised in Florida in the Jim Crow Era, it was very unlikely that his extraordinary talent would be appreciated anywhere in the South upon his return to the States.

The North was decidedly different. While still in his teens, Don was invited by conductor Arthur Fielder to perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra. He would later compose symphonies for the New York Philharmonic and was even allowed to rent an apartment above Carnegie Hall.

In the early Sixties, Don decided to throw caution to the wind by embarking on an eight-week concert tour across the Deep South. This would involve playing numerous “white only” venues where, despite being the headliner, he might not be able to dine or use the restroom.

As far as finding a place to stay, he would turn to the Green Book, a priceless guide for African-Americans in need of public accommodations across the segregated South. And to make sure he kept out of trouble on the road, he hired Tony Lip Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a blue-collar bouncer from the Bronx.

Thus unfolds Green Book, a fact-based buddy flick revisiting the unlikely friendship forged between a stuffy classical artist and his rough-edged driver in the face of their racial and class differences. The movie represents a bit of a departure for director Peter Farrelly, whose name has long been associated with lowbrow comedies like Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal and There’s Something about Mary.

The relatively-sophisticated Green Book proves to be far more reminiscent of Driving Miss Daisy (1989) than of Farrelly’s earlier bottom-feeding fare. In fact, the palpable chemistry generated by co-stars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen will not be forgotten by the Academy come Oscar season.

A touching biopic with a timely universal message about brotherhood and tolerance.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, mature themes, profanity, racial slurs, smoking and suggestive material
Running time: 130 minutes
Production Studio: Dreamworks Pictures / Amblin Partners / Innisfree Pictures / Wessler Entertainment / Participant Media /Conundrum Entertainment / Cinetic Media
Studio: Universal Pictures

 

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam’s Kapsules
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening Dec. 7, 2018

 

WIDE RELEASES

Mary Queen of Scots (R for violence and sexuality) Saoirse Ronan plays the title role in this costume drama based on John Guy’s best-selling biography chronicling the charismatic monarch’s turbulent reign. With Margot Robbie, Gemma Chan and David Tennant.

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Ben Is Back (R for drug use and pervasive profanity) Lucas Hedges plays the title character in this coming-of-age drama about a troubled teen who arrives home unexpectedly on Christmas Eve after running away from a drug treatment center. With Julia Roberts, Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton.

Central Park (Unrated) Genre-bending horror flick about a half-dozen, high school BFFs who end up on the run from a knife-wielding, hooded executioner when they decide to spend a night partying in the park. Ensemble cast includes Grace Van Patten, Ruby Modine, David Valcin and Nicole Balsam.

The Charmer (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Denmark, about an Iranian refugee (Ardalan Esmaili) desperate to seduce a woman who can solidify his immigration status. Featuring Susan Taslimi, Lars Brygmann and Soho Rezanejad. (In English, Persian and Danish with subtitles.)

Clara’s Ghost (Unrated) Paula Niedert Elliott plays the title character in this dysfunctional family dramedy as a woman who finds solace in a supernatural spirit when she gets fed up with her self-absorbed relatives. With Chris Elliott, Haley Joel Osment and Bella Bracken.

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Unrated) Warts-and-all biopic chronicling the rise and fall of the late, longtime chairman of Fox Television/adviser to Presidents Reagan, Bushes 41 and 43, and Donald Trump. Featuring commentary by Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly.

Great Great Great (Unrated) Romance drama about a couple (Dan Beirne and Sarah Kolasky) whose blissful relationship starts to fall apart after they get engaged. Support cast includes Richard Clarkin, Lindsay Leese and Ian Fisher.

The Great Pretender (Unrated) Romantic romp, set in NYC, revolving around a French playwright (Maelle Poesy-Guichard) who falls for the star (Keith Poulson) playing her ex in her stage version of their failed relationship. With Linas Phillips, Esther Garrel and Julian Grady. (In English and French with subtitles.)

Tyrel (Unrated) Jason Mitchell portrays the title character in this fish-out-of-water drama about an African-American who feels uncomfortable being the only black person attending a lily-white weekend birthday party in the Catskills. With Christopher Abbott, Trust Arancio and Max Born.

Vox Lux (R for profanity, drug use and graphic violence) Musical drama, set in 1999, chronicling the transformation of an aspiring singer (Raffey Cassidy) into a pop icon with the help of her manager (Jude Law) and songwriter sister (Stacy Martin). With Natalie Portman, Jennifer Ehle and Christopher Abbott.

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