It will surprise you (it certainly did us) that Green Book is directed by the guy who brought us Cameron Diaz using questionable “hair gel” and Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey engaging in laxative wars, amongst others. Yes, Farrelly brother Peter is our helmer here and while the film shares the road trip narrative so often used in their comedies, this one tackles some sensitive issues about race and class that some 50 years later feel no closer to being eradicated.
Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a New York “heavy” who spends his time as a security-fixer type at the Copacabana club, helping along those who aren’t welcome. With the club shut for refurbishments, he’s in need of a quick job and stumbles into becoming a driver for renowned musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as he embarks on a tour of the West Coast of the US in the run-up to the Christmas season. A mish-mash of cultures, temperaments and thought processes ensue as the two travel spend two months dealing with 1960’s American attitudes embedded in the culture of the Deep South.
Your first instinct might be to think of this as some sort of remake of Driving Miss Daisy and, for the most part, it does play out a little like that – upper-class being chauffeured around by the working-class – but there is a much lighter, frivolous tone to Farrelly’s film than the former. Coming from his background of more gross-out comedic fare like Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, Farrelly manages a quite impressive juggling act with a film that is laugh-out-loud funny (more so than any Life of the Party or Overboard) but also full of political and racial issues that are handled profoundly and sensitively. Indeed, it is a delight to say that Farrelly stretches himself as a director out of his comfort zone with a beautiful film that is perhaps his best yet.
He is blessed with an impeccable cast, too, with his dynamic duo at the helm showcasing their incredible talents once again. Fresh from his thoroughly deserved Oscar win in Moonlight, Ali delivers another powerhouse performance that’s at turns heartbreaking and tortured while still maintaining such charm and charisma; Mortensen, meanwhile, is spectacular in a slightly lighter role than we have seen from him and while it takes a little while for his Italian twang to sink in, his fierce but sympathetic performance is amongst his absolute best. A word, too, for another stellar turn from Linda Cardellini who continues her quiet flourish of recent years.
It is easy to see why Green Book walked away with the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival last month as it is a real crowd-pleaser: full of heart and whimsy while tackling such sensitive and heavy subjects is a real feat and while it travels down roads you are fully expecting it to, this one could sneak in and steal a few awards come the New Year. Now, who’s up for some Kentucky Fried Chicken?
Scott.J Davis | [rating=4]
Biography, Drama | USA, 2018 | 12A | BFI London Film Festival | Entertainment One UK | 1st February 2019 (UK Cinema) | Dir.Peter Farrelly | Linda Cardellini, Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali