By Nicole Zamlout
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Nowadays, hatred seems to be a theme in our country. Controversial ideas that we thought were gone after the Civil Rights Movement seem to be emerging again. However, the film “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly, reminds us that hatred can easily be erased with compassion, understanding and friendship.
The story follows Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), an Italian-American man from the Bronx, who, in 1962, is asked by famous African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) to be his driver and bodyguard during his music tour in the Deep South.
The storytelling was smooth and surprisingly comical. The clash of Tony’s street-smart attitude with Shirley’s more classic and refined mannerisms is hilarious to see and fills scenes with humor where one would expect tension. The banter between the two men in a close-quarters setting allows viewers to see their friendship blossom despite their misunderstandings of each other.
The serious moments read just as powerfully. Tony is forced to reevaluate his prejudices about African-Americans during his time with Shirley by deeply understanding the discrimination they face. That growth is parallel to Shirley’s, who from Tony learns how to let his hair down and appreciate the charms of his less-than-eloquent associate.
This story would not be as impactful if the protagonists were not completely amazing. Mortensen plays Tony Lip beautifully and is able to portray him as a man simply trying to provide for his family while also being ignorant of lives outside of his own world in the Bronx. However, instead of shunning his ignorance or being angry at Tony, viewers finds themselves hoping he learns from Shirley about the world outside his own. Tony realizes that his views are incorrect, which makes his character more complex as the story unfolds.
Shirley is played equally as wonderfully by Ali. His eloquence and refined mannerisms make him endearing and almost otherworldly when compared with Tony. His integrity and patience are inspiring, since his time in the South is less than pleasant on several occasions. However, we only learn a few details about him, which makes him both interesting and elusive. In any other film that would be frustrating, but since the film seems to follow Tony more closely, it is safe to assume Farrelly wanted the audience to see that while the two become close, Tony does not learn everything about Shirley on that fateful trip. The two complement each other well and teach each other valuable lessons on life, people and family.
The cinematography was expertly done and the camera never misses a moment to showcase an emotion or capture the growth of each character. The score, which contained much of Shirley’s pieces played impressively by Ali, was rich and powerful and showed the emotion of a scene without ever being over the top.
The film has received a lot of praise since its premier, and for good reason — it reminds us that with compassion, understanding and kindness, we can see how hatred prevents us from realizing that we are all people who need companionship and deserve to be happy. “Green Book” is a heart-warming, hilarious and fun trip toward discovery. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.