Green Book- A Heartwarming Surprise
I started watching “Green Book” with a thought in my head. How many times is Hollywood going to make the same old tired story of a prejudiced white person slowly realising that the black man is smart and intelligent after-all? But, I was pleasantly surprised right from the start by the way the film actually plays into the trope. The awareness of the film-maker brings a kind of earnestness to the film that is hard to find fault with.
The film actually is mostly played from the perspective of Tony Lip’s (Viggo Mortenson) character. He is recently out of a job as an enforcer at a mob-run local bar, which is closed for renovation. In his search for a new job, he comes across an interesting offer. His job, if he chooses to accept it, is to drive Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a Black Pianist, through the Deep South for an eight-week concert tour. Through the course of the film, we slowly watch the seeds to a life-long friendship being sown between this unlikely pair.
The Tropes Of Green Book
Like I was mentioned before, the plot does seem very cliché in the beginning. But, the film-maker adds small flourishes to it, that takes it up a notch. He does it in three very interesting ways.
Firstly, the dynamic is flipped. We normally see the film through the rich white person and they realize that the poor black person is, after all, a really good person. This usually only affects the white person’s life. This is called the Magical Negro trope. This is slightly upended by the black man being privileged, an elitist and not in touch with his roots. This allows growth for both the characters in a beautiful but gradual way.
Secondly, there are no preachy scenes about how the white race always keeps the minorities down. It is actually treated as a matter of fact occurrence and this allows us to actively observe than passively listen.
Thirdly, it is very informative about the South of that time. For example, the green book is a guidebook that black people of the time had to carry while travelling South, to stay safe from the maniacal Jim Crow laws and the term- Sundown Town, which means that in certain towns black people would not be allowed to be seen after dark/had to leave the town by sundown.
Technical Aspects And More
Coming to the technical aspects of the film, the cinematography, editing and art direction are top notch and deserve a special mention. The one thing that surprised me was the director. The film is directed by Peter Farrelly, who was previously known for broad comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. I was surprised by the way he handled the film, with such a sensitivity that was totally lacking in his previous work. Hope he continues to do such brilliant work in the future.
The one last thing that I absolutely adored about the film was the acting. Both Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali bring an authenticity to their characters, that is rare for a film like this. While they do have their big Oscar-bait moments in the film, the piece actually shines in the low-key moments between them, like when Ali’s character eats a piece of fried chicken for the first time. There is innocence and earnestness to Mortenson’s character that ground even Ali’s Elitist Don Shirley.
To conclude it, Green Book is a sugary sweet feel-good movie that works against all odds. It has a story that is sadly still relevant in American society and has brilliant performances to back it up.