A working class bouncer from the Bronx gets a job chauffeuring an African American pianist in the American South in Green Book. Set in 1962, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is a bouncer at New York’s Copacabana night club, who is in need of work while the club is closed for renovations. Tony is offered a job by pianist by “Doctor” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) to be his driver on a tour of the American Deep South. Armed with a Green Book travel guide, featuring a list of black-friend establishments, Tony accompanies Don into the heart of American racism.
Peter Farrelly, best known for the lowbrow comedies directed with his brother Bobby, uses odd couple comedy to comment on American race relations in Green Book. Don Shirley was a highly successful, classically trained pianist, who tries his best to respond to racism with class and dignity. Desperately in need of money, Tony Vallelonga reluctantly access the job to be Don’s driver and the two begin to form a bond with each other, as they tackle the racism of the American South.
Probably the biggest appeal of Green Book is the relationship between Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga, with the two being polar opposites to each other. In fact, I would argue that a better and less vague title for the film would be something like The Mobster and The Musician. Green Book is ultimately a commentary on racism in the United States and how it is better to respond with dignity instead of violence, something that people in today’s world can probably learn from.