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MOVIE REVIEW: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali shine in the brilliant dramedy ‘Green Book’

Racism is still one of the most prevalent issues in America today, with US President Donald Trump being one of those who’s pushing for white supremacy in the States. But even before Trump, racism has been all over America for ages. And back then, it was pretty much in-your-face and quite brutal. Such examples are perfectly captured and depicted in Peter Farrelly’s dramedy/ road movie ‘Green Book.’

The film may come a bit lighthearted despite the heavy themes it is tackling, but nevertheless sends out a powerful message against an undying issue of unjust treatment against a person on the basis of their race and color.

The film, which stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, got it’s title from The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for African-Americans who travel across towns. The said book contains a compilation of services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans in a time when pervasive and often harsh racial discrimination (often acceptable by the law back then) were rampant in the country.

In the film, Viggo Mortensen plays Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga, as he served as driver and bodyguard to African-American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), during the latter’s tour in the Deep South during the 1960s. The two are met with different faces and levels of discrimination due to Shirley’s color, ranging from refusal of service in shops and restaurants, to brutal attacks from a group of men.

The film perfectly captured the difficulties faced by the everyday black men and women in a time when racial segregation was legal and accepted by the society in the United States.

Viggo Mortensen (who is more popularly known for his role as Aragorn in the epic film trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings”) shines as Tony, the rough yet smooth-talking street-smart jack-of-all-trades who’s willing to do anything to earn for his family, as long as it is not connected with mafia work. Mortensen makes Tony so fun to watch, especially when he shares the screen with co-star Mahershala Ali (the 44-year-old black actor who became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for his role in the 2016 movie ‘Moonlight’) who plays Shirley, a complete opposite of Tony’s character. He is more refined, cultured and a bit fragile.

Ali stands out in the role that eventually earned him the 2018 Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor award. In one of the film’s most poignant scenes (and definitely my favorite), he asks Mortensen’s character, “If I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?” That powerful scene alone deserves an award already.

Mortensen and Ali’s chemistry together is undeniable, allowing the two leads to carry the film from the get-go. It was a delight watching them bicker around in the beginning because of different things due to their clashing personalities – from stealing gemstones, eating fried chicken inside the car, and even throwing trash along the highway.

But as the film moves along, each one of them starts to change their perspective towards the other. Tony soon realizes how difficult a life of a colored person is in their society as they encounter more prejudice along the way. Shirley begins to open up to the world and appreciate the people around him.

Even though the film covers some deep and serious issues, their fun yet poignant performances makes the film an amusing yet touching experience. The witty screenplay, written by director Farrelly himself, together with Nick Vallelonga and Brian Hayes Currie, is full of humor at every turn.

In addition to the deft handling of the material by Farrelly, the film also boasts a colorful world that perfectly captures the nostalgia of its period setting. He fills up every scene with rich 1960’s period detail and music, resulting in this  handsomely produced effort.

‘Green Book’ is a brilliant dramedy that is buoyed by the outstanding performances of its two leads and the deft handling of such serious topics like racism. It’s a funny yet moving film that sends out a powerful message that will resonate with audiences today.

5 – Excellent
4 – Very Good
3 – Good
2 – Tolerable
1 – Terrible

Want to watch Green Book on your special day together with you loved ones? You can now rent a theatre for special celebrations by booking at SM Cinema’s newest party venue, Event Cinema, at the SM Mall of Asia. Get an all-inclusive event management with decorations, catering service, and a wide selection of old to new movies for you to watch exclusively when you book a date at Event Cinema.

Catch Green Book on February 6 in select SM Cinema branches. Book your tickets through the website, or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You may also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates!

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