Filmed in New Orleans, director Peter Farrelly’s Green Book is a charming addition to local theater programming during the holiday season.
Based on a true story, the film follows Tony (Viggo Mortensen), a gruff Italian-American bouncer in early 1960s New York City. He is asked to escort a fastidious African American concert pianist (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali) in a tour throughout the racially segregated Deep South.
The movie derives a lot of humor from the personality clashes between the two men. In some ways, it sort of plays like a socially conscious version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (this is not meant as an insult). The two leads give excellent performances. The script, which was co-written by the real-life son of Mortensen’s character, does a good job of showing the audience Ali’s loneliness as a man who does not quite fit in with any group.
There is, of course, an important message here about bigotry, tolerance, and learning to change your attitudes. But Farrelly, who is best known for co-directing broadly pleasing comedies like There’s Something About Mary, remembers the importance of entertaining the audience while delivering a message. As a result, Green Book never feels like the cinematic equivalent of taking your medicine.