In what was a surprising upset for some, the biographical comedy-drama Green Book has taken home the Oscar for Best Picture in 2019. Like so many Best Picture winners, a backlash was sparked, with some saying that the film’s view on racism and racial politics was clumsy and a little too sanitized. This wasn’t the case for me and many others, however. While Green Book’s feel-good tone and happy ending can feel a little out of place if one sees the film as an attempt to solve racism, the heart of the movie for me was the friendship between the two main characters and their resonant character arcs.
The movie takes place in the early ‘60’s and is the (mostly) true story of Italian American bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen, Oscar nominated for his role) as he takes on renowned African American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, Oscar winning for his role) as a driver and bodyguard for Shirley’s concert tour in the Deep South.
The film plays heavily on the cultural contrast between Tony and Don, with Tony learning how to be more open-minded towards Don’s specific lifestyle and way of being, as well as Don’s eventual acceptance to loosening up and getting out of his comfort zone. Overall, the comedic tone felt very fresh as a result of veteran comedy director Peter Farrelly’s sharp screenplay and Mortensen and Ali’s fantastic onscreen chemistry. The film has a tasteful dramatic depth as well, highlighting the two men coming to personal understanding of each other in poignant moments.
Green Book will inevitably be a topic of discussion regarding the handling of racially conscious commentary in film. Regardless, the film’s entertainment value, compassionate writing, and rewatch value will make it a buddy movie watched for years to come.