I know that many of my readers would presume that I have a certain genre of films and tv shows which pique my natural interest, but occasionally I do like to surprise. ‘The Green Book’, an Oscar-winning motion picture, stars Viggo Mortensen, of Lord of the Rings fame and Mahershala Ali.
The film tells the story of Doctor Don Shirley, who is a famous pianist in America in the 1960′s. He looks to employ a valet to take him to all his tour of shows in the Deep South which is famously racist. He hires Tony Vallelonga, a typical Italian New Yorker, whose stereotypical views about African-American seem to irk Don at every chance. However, as the time passes the two of them strike up an unusual but genuine friendship that is endearing to see.
In terms of the acting, Mahershala Ali is going to be one of the all-time greats in my opinion. His ability to portray a very nuanced character was remarkable, and though I’ve seen him in roles where I’ve felt more aware of his acting ability, I have to admit this role was not an easy one. The bigger surprise for me was Viggo Mortensen. I’ve only ever seen him as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, where he plays a soft-spoken and humble king. Compared to Tony, who is a little cocky, spewing out foul language regularly and completely self-entitled, the contrast could not be more vast, and yet for me, he really sold this film. Seeing the growth of the character was extremely enjoyable.
The key aspect of this film was the themes that it tackled. Apart from the most obvious theme of race and the treatment of African Americans in America at the moment in time, it also tackles deeper issues of identity. Don Shirley knows he will never fit in with the White American population and yet finds himself unable to relate to Black people either. I thought the subject was tackled very sensitively and sensibly, whilst also making people aware of what individuals like Shirley were facing daily.
The music was a large part of the film, given that Don Shirley, makes up one-third of the Don Shirley Trio, an instrumental group. However what the music represents is interesting in that Shirley plays classical music, a genre that at the time, no other African Americans were playing. There’s one scene where he and Tony go into a very rowdy bar, full of African Americans, and though sticking out like a sore thumb, he sits to play the piano on their stage, playing a complicated piece by Chopin and gets thunderous applause.
Overall, I thought that for an Oscar-winning film, it was excellent and interesting, which often award-winning films are not. The issues tackled by the film are extremely important and the acting was completely on point!