Sunday 27 January 2019

Film Review: Green Book

Winner of Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes and nominated for a swathe of Academy Awards, Green Book has had its fair share of controversy in a season filled with controversy. But is it worth the hate?

Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is a street-smart, rough-and-ready American-Italian nightclub bouncer who finds himself out of work. When the opportunity to drive skilled African-American pianist Don Shirley through the racist Deep South arises, Tony is initially hesitant. But, during the eight-week tour, Tony and Shirley come to understand one another a little better, putting aside their differences and prejudices along the way.

Green Book is a perfectly pleasant film that some circles consider problematic. And I can see their point; hasn't the world evolved past the point of needing an updated, role-reversed version of Driving Ms Daisy? The premise screams old-fashioned and outdated. But on the other hand, can't this film coexist alongside more inflammatory work such as Blackkklansman? I mean, do all films about race have to come at it from the same angle?

I digress. Alas, no film exists in a vacuum, and Green Book is both bang average and an easy target for 'woke' people on Twitter to tear into. In today's climate, its refusal to rip into race relations like a rabid dog doesn't sit right with a lot of people, while others find its mediocrity just as offensive.

Green Book never digs too deep, always brushing against something substantial before retreating to its comfy, tried-and-tested territory of rose-tinted warmth. "The past wasn't great from a race relations perspective, but that's all in the past - right?" seems to be the overarching sentiment radiating from Farrelly's film. It squanders an interesting premise (for example, I'd never heard of a 'green book' travel guide before) by having very little interest in plumbing the depths of said material.

It certainly doesn't help that its main character, Mortensen's Italian AF driver Tony Lip, is a caricature akin to Luigi Risotto from The Simpsons. All huge hand gestures and mouthy New York-isms. The screenplay is loaded with some ham-fisted, cliched dialogue and the structure – framed around a road trip with stopovers for Ali's piano maestro to perform – leaves the film feeling strung out and overlong.

That's not to say it's without merit. Setting aside the rote screenplay, Ali delivers another great performance. Mortensen certainly commits to his role, even if it is a cartoon. And the jokes are funny in a surface-level, feel-good Saturday matinee sense – this glossy, warm glimpse at the past is definitely angled at a wider crowd than your typical Oscar bait. It wants to be liked, and I imagine most who see Green Book (who aren't caught up in the discourse around it) will have a good time.

The Verdict: 6/10

Green Book is billed as a lighter bite in an awards season filled with meaty meals. But for anyone looking for something more substantial, it might leave you wanting more. A great performance from Ali is somewhat stifled by a humdrum screenplay.

Green Book is in cinemas across Australia now.


  1. Great review, and it's good to read one so balanced. I've read overwhelmingly positive and negative reviews so far. I'm still waiting for it's UK release but I'm hoping to like it!

  2. I always tell people that this is a C movie with A+ acting. I support is for being filmed in my hometown of New Orleans, but it's just not great material, especially with it's timing. Tremendous performances I said, but it's not an Oscar winner, nor should it be a nominee.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...