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   Movie Reviews: Green Book
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Studio:
     Universal Pictures 21 hr. 10 min)
Plot:
     A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
Cast:
     Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen, Linda Cardellini, Dimiter D. Marinov
Rating:
     PG-13
Bottom Line:
     ****

Coverage:
by
Samantha Ofole-Prince

Enlightening and entertaining, this period piece laced with racial conflict and socially relevant humor is certain to snag several accolades this award season.

Set in the waning years of segregation, it’s an endearing comedy which centers on the relationship between a snobbish black concert pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his crass Italian driver Tony (Viggo Mortensen).

Academy Award winning actor Ali, arguably America's foremost actor, plays the real-life Dr. Don Shirley who in the 60s hired a New York City bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in The Bronx, to drive and protect him while on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South.

Their relationship is almost adversarial at first from the moment Tony auditions for the eight-week gig?,? which pays $100 a week, ?for? the idea of catering to a colored man isn’t initially appealing to him. Doc’s not like any of the African-Americans that he has grown up with in New York City, but he takes on the task after the ?salary?? is increased. While on the road trip, his constant nattering, crass language and chain smoking irritates Doc and that’s where most of the comedy and humor comes from as both men clash, but as they spend time together in the Cadillac Coupe De Ville driving through the South in 1962, they begin to reveal themselves to one another.

The film primarily chronicles the obstacles the duo face together — institutionalized racism to prejudice to sexuality to stereotypes and the film takes its title from The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual travel guide that was published annually from 1936 to 1966, which listed businesses and other establishments that served Black customers.  In the U.S, it became invaluable in the South, where Jim Crow segregation laws varied by county and state, and unofficial rules in “Sundown towns” forbade Black Americans from being out after dark.

With fine acting, subtle direction by Peter Farrelly, the period details and dramatic aspects of the story are so well handled.  The infectious humor in the film is organic, generated more out of situations and the contrasts between the characters and every one of these dramatic maelstroms manages to appear fresh.  With dry wit as well as genuine warmth, the movie never resorts to sentimentality and it’s the balance of humor and drama that makes “Green Book” powerfully authentic.

The film also showcases the musical talent of Dr. Donald Walbridge Shirley, the virtuoso pianist, composer, arranger, and performer. Linda Cardellini plays Dolores, Tony’s wife, the bassist, George, and cellist, Oleg, who together with pianist Shirley comprised The Don Shirley Trio are played by Mike Hatton and Dimiter Marinov.

A film that will force audiences to confront preconceptions and unexamined prejudices “Green Book" shows us that friendship is forged through small kindnesses, and laughs shared and is a sure bet for awards come next year.

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