Peter Farrelly’s delightful little film is all heart and a sure shot Oscar contender. It uses humour to touch upon an issue as unsettling as racism and leaves you moist eyed with its observation and understanding of human behaviour. Uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, the story has the ability to change your life and how you look at people.
Though simplistically explored, the story portrays Vallelonga’s initial flawed sense of entitlement and traits exuding white supremacy and Shirley’s tussle with his true identity. He wonders where he actually belongs as an elite black musician who lives in a palatial house
— alone. His art is appreciated by the rich but not his skin colour. He rightly questions, “So if I’m not black enough and if I’m not white enough, what am I?” The film holds a mirror to our psyche and our knack of stereotyping people and how in the end; love, respect and kindness is all we need.
Shirley hires tough talking Vallelonga as his chauffeur to ensure no trouble during his concert tour in the Deep South. The Italian American bouncer wonders why Shirley endures racial abuse, until he realises, “Genius is not enough, you need courage to change people.” Those wondering, Green Book, titled after the The Negro Motorist Green Book, was a guidebook published for Black travelers that named services and establishments that were safe for them during a time of legalized discrimination.
The concert trip that lasts for two months makes both Tony and Shirley study their own behaviour and question their own beliefs. They change each other for better. Humorous, humane and heart-rending, Farrelly ensures you become the characters you watch. You feel their sorrow, love and humiliation.
While the film is effortlessly soul-stirring, a scene in particular sums up the movie brilliantly. Mahershala Ali sitting in front of a mirror after being bashed up by racists for entering a bar meant for white people. With tears in his eyes, he quietly uses a concealer to cover his wounds, just the way Shirley uses his music to hide his loneliness and inner turmoil. Ali deserves a standing ovation for this film and that scene in particular. His eyes do the talking.
Green Book speaks of embracing differences, overcoming prejudices and knowing what matters the most at the end of it all.