‘GREEN BOOK’ IS SURE TO MAKE YOU SMILE

The Sun Herald - - Marque - BY LIND­SEY BAHR

If there is a big stu­dio movie that’s more gen­er­ally crowd-pleas­ing than ”Green Book ” this sea­son, I have yet to find it. In this land­scape of chal­leng­ing, provoca­tive, edgy films, Viggo Mortensen, Ma­her­shala Ali and, of all peo­ple, di­rec­tor Peter Far­relly have come along with a movie about friend­ship that goes down so easy that it’s al­most sus­pect, as though it were flung out of 1996 and gifted to our weary 2018 brains.

Based on a true story, “Green Book” re­counts a 1962 road trip when Bronx bred Ital­ian-Amer­i­can Frank An­thony Val­le­longa, also known as Tony Lip (Mortensen), was hired to drive a renowned black pian­ist, Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), to all of his concert en­gage­ments across the Deep South.

The two men are ob­vi­ously mis­matched — what would any­one have to learn if they weren’t? Tony is a work­ing-class bruiser and world class eater with a wife (Linda Cardellini), two sons, a lim­ited vo­cab­u­lary, in­sti­tu­tional racism, but a gen­er­ally good heart. Dr. Shirley is a wealthy, eru­dite dandy, a mas­ter of his art, a snob and a loner. He also knows he needs re­li­able pro­tec­tion on this jour­ney to a seg­re­gated South, asks around and finds this Co­paca­bana bouncer Tony Lip is the one for the job de­spite the prej­u­dices.

The con­structs will feel fa­mil­iar and well-worn and sur­prises are few on this jour­ney to­ward ac­cep­tance and friend­ship, but the plea­sure of this film is in the larger than life charStein­way ac­ters cre­ated by the two leads and their per­fectly askew chem­istry. Mortensen is al­most un­rec­og­niz­able as Tony, pack­ing ex­tra pounds and an as­tute comedic sen­si­bil­ity. He knows just how far to push his car­i­ca­ture with­out mak­ing it car­toon­ish. When Dr. Shirley says to make sure that there’s a piano at ev­ery concert venue, Tony scrib­bles down “STAINWAY” on a sheet of pa­per. His doltish­ness is en­dear­ing, not an­noy­ing.

And Ali, so mem­o­rable and heart-wrench­ing in “Moon­light,” puts his own stamp on a char­ac­ter who feels alien­ated from his own race and those he’s per­form­ing for. Al­though a con­sid­er­ably more staid role than Tony, Ali also man­ages to have his own fun with Dr. Shirley’s seem­ingly in­cur­able snob­bery, winc­ing at Tony’s lack of deco­rum, or care.

In fact, this film al­lows ev­ery­one to play against their Hol­ly­wood-pre­scribed “type,” from the ac­tors to the di­rec­tor, who is per­haps the most sur­pris­ing rev­e­la­tion of them all.

The Far­relly name con­jures up a very spe­cific kind of movie: The big, bawdy com­edy that he and his brother made their own and, later, failed to keep fresh. If any­thing, the charm and suc­cess of “Green Book” makes a heck of a case for giv­ing di­rec­tors more room to work out­side of the gen­res or styles that they be­came fa­mous for.

There is cer­tainly a more se­ri­ous story to be told out of this road trip, and about Dr. Shirley’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life. “Green Book,” taken from the ti­tle of the guide Tony has to use to find the es­tab­lish­ments and ho­tels where peo­ple of color are wel­come at through­out the South, scratches at the sur­face of the hor­rors and in­dig­ni­ties Dr. Shirley faced while be­ing a “guest of honor.” Those range from be­ing asked to use an out­door toi­let to be­ing de­nied the right to dine in the place he’s about to per­form. This film chooses a dif­fer­ent route, and is in turn funny, heart-warm­ing, il­lu­mi­nat­ing and a joy to watch.

THE PLEA­SURE OF THIS FILM IS IN THE LARGER THAN LIFE CHAR­AC­TERS CRE­ATED BY THE TWO LEADS.

PATTI PERRET Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures

Viggo Mortensen, left, and Ma­her­shala Ali star in “Green Book.”

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