This year’s feel-good Oscars selection about race and discrimination is director Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.” Starring Viggo Mortensen, nominated for Best Actor and Mahershala Ali, nominated for Best Supporting actor, are depicted as unlikely companions in a road movie that couldn’t be more polar opposites. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, an Italian-American from the Bronx, working-class, rough around the edges, a driver and bouncer who can take care of his own. The film contrasts him with Ali who plays Dr. Don Shirley, an African-American classical pianist with doctorates in psychology, music, and liturgical arts.
Tony Lip is hired by Dr. Shirley to be his driver on a music tour across the country to the Deep South, where they face racism, discrimination, and encounter violence. The Green Book refers to a travel guide for the black motorist traveling in the South for places to stay, eat, rest stops, etc. without being harassed or worse.
While it is very sad to imagine the necessity of a guide like this as recent as 60 years ago in a time when such blatant discrimination was both accepted and normal here in the United States, this type of discrimination still persists today.
The film tells the story of Dr. Shirley and Tony Lip’s gradual friendship and mutual respect that grows between them. The film touches on themes of belonging and societal expectations.
I feel like it is an important film given the current state of affairs in the U.S. but ultimately lacks the punch and poignancy to earn this year’s Best Picture.
The film is also up for Best Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Film Editing.