Mortensen, Ali Are Saving Graces For ‘Green Book’

Courtesy: Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures’ new human drama Green Book has had made headlines nationwide since its theatrical debut late last year.  From the highs of taking home three Golden Globe ® awards to the controversy over how certain elements of the movie’s story were presented, to the controversy surrounding star Viggo Mortensen’s use of a racial slur soon after the movie’s premier to issues swirling around the movie’s director, Peter Farrelly, and co-writer/producer Nick Vallelonga, over their own past actions, the movie and those involved has gained plenty of positive and negative publicity.  With the movie being nominated for “Best Picture” at this year’s Oscars – which air live tonight on ABC – the movie is still making plenty of headlines, and could make even more if it takes home the Academy of Motion Pictures’ top prize.  Whether the movie takes home the Best Picture statue is up to the Academy voters.  They have plenty to consider, too, not the least of which being the movie’s story.  It will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s pacing poses a bit of a problem, too.  That will be addressed a little later.  The work of the movie’s lead cast couples with the story to make up for the issues raised by the movie’s pacing, making the movie overall worth at least one watch.

Green Book has brought in plenty of gold since making its theatrical debut in November.  The movie about two friends from two completely different backgrounds has also brought in plenty of gold at the awards shows since that time. The question is whether this movie is really that deserving of its awards or even Hollywood’s top prize.  That is due in part to a story, which has been done plenty of times previously in other movies, one of the most notable being the hit 1989 movie Driving Miss Daisy.  That movie saw an elderly Jewish woman (played by Jessica Tandy – Fried Green Tomatoes, Cocoon, Batteries Not Included) becoming friends with her African-American chauffer (played by Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Invictus) as the pair overcame its racial and cultural differences.  Given, the story takes place over the course of years, but the similarity in the theme and setting is such that a comparison between the story and that of Green Book cannot be ignored.  The only major difference in the two settings is that in the case of Green Book, Tony is the driver while Dr. Shirley takes the place of Tandy.  In other words, the roles have been reversed and set against the backdrop of the civil rights era America, as the pair winds its way through the deep south on Dr. Shirley’s tour.  Other than that, the two movies are almost one in the same.  Driving Miss Daisy is not the only movie to which Green Book can be compared.  Radio and Remember The Titans also follow the standard theme of overcoming cultural differences and boundaries.  Not only that, but just like Green Book, they are also based on actual events.  To that end, this story becomes just one more in a bigger sea of similar flicks, and honestly, not the most memorable story.  Given, maybe this story did stay mostly true to the original story of Tony and Dr. Shirley, thanks to a member of Tony’s immediate family taking a direct role in the movie’s creation, but even with that in mind, it still is not the first time that a movie of this ilk has been released.  To that end, one cannot help but wonder why those movies did not receive the accolades that this movie has garnered, again showing the problem with this movie’s story.

The story at the center of Green Book presents its own share of problems for the movie.  That is because it is hardly the first time that a story of its ilk has been presented to audiences.  It is just one of the problems presented by this movie.  The movie’s pacing presents its own problem.  Green Book’s run time is listed on the back of its box at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  That is about average for movies in Hollywood’s current age.  The problem is that the noted run time feels so much longer than it actually is due to the story’s pacing.  The biggest pacing problem comes as Tony and Dr. Shirley actually hit the road.  The buildup to the trip and the finale movement actually move relatively well, but the trip itself has a tendency to drag.  It feels like Vallelonga, Farrelly and fellow writer Brian Hayes Currie wanted to make a little bit too certain that the story was told as accurately as possible.  While that dedication to staying true to the movie’s source material is to be commended, it clearly caused the movie to feel much longer than it actually was.  The result is that it leaves one checking one’s watch for the time more than once throughout the course of that two-hour-plus run time.  When this is considered alongside the problems caused by the movie’s story, the result is even more doubt as to whether Green Book deserves all of the gold (and green) that it has received.  For all of the problems posed by Green Book, the movie is not a complete loss.  The work of the movie’s lead actors is actually a positive.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali make for an enjoyable watch as they portray the real life Tony Lip and Dr. Don Shirley.  As is noted in the bonus behind-the-scenes featurette that is featured in the movie’s upcoming home release – it is scheduled for release on BD/DVD/Digital combo pack on March 12 – Mortensen worked hard to make sure that he got his portrayal as close to the real Tony Lip as possible.  It shows on screen, too, in every interaction with Ali.  Speaking of Ali, his portrayal is just as certain to keep audiences engaged and entertained as that of Mortensen.  Shirley’s gradual change from an aloof, uptight figure to a friendlier, more open individual is so subtle through Ali’s portrayal.  That change is visible as the two men interact throughout the course of the movie, too.  Tony starts to change and grow, too, through the men’s interactions, making the movie’s story at least somewhat bearable despite (again) that noted problematic pacing and again, its all-too-familiar overall story of race relations during the civil rights era.  In general, it is because of the men’s work that this movie is not just another forgettable addition to an already vast array of civil rights-era movies.  Keeping all of this in mind, one cannot help but wonder how or why Green Book has garnered the green and gold that it has received.  Regardless, it is a movie that is worth at least one watch, if only for the work of Mortensen and Ali.

Universal Pictures’ fish-out-of-water drama Green Book is a movie that is worth at the most, one watch.  That is thanks in large part to the work of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.  The men’s chemistry on screen and their own performances is really the movie’s only true saving grace.  The movie’s central story is hardly the first of its kind, as it can easily be compared to the likes of Driving Miss Daisy, Radio and Remember The Titans with its civil rights-era backdrop and focus on overcoming cultural diversity.  The story’s pacing also detracts from the story, making the story’s two-hour, 10-minute run time feel closer to three hours.  The bonus material featured in the movie’s upcoming home release does little to help either.  Given, it adds a little bit of insight into the movie’s creation, but honestly little else.  Keeping all of this in mind, Green Book proves to itself not entirely worthy of the Motion Picture Academy’s top gold prize at tonight’s Oscars.  The movie will be available on Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo pack on March 12.  more information on Green Book is available online now at:










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