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Green Book

also known as “Green Book - Eine besondere Freundschaft,” “Green Book - O Guia,” “Green Book - Um Guia Para a Vida,” “Roheline raamat,” “Zöld könyv,” «Зелёная книга»
MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.

Reviewed by: Samiatu Dosunmu
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults • Mature Teens
Genre:
Biography Comedy Drama
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
September 11, 2018 (festival)
November 16, 2018 (select—25 theaters)
November 21, 2018 (wide—1,063 theaters)
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Feeling out of place, isolated and lonely in both white and black communities

Human need for love and friendship

What is Christian LOVE? Answer

The importance of empathy

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History of racial segregation

Wise ways to deal with discrimination, prejudice and the ugliness of bigotry

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Racial STEREOTYPING

Dealing with personal and unjust humiliation

Dealing with barriers encountered in life in a wise and productive way

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Developing genuine EMPATHY for the problems, struggles and suffering of others

Treating others with RESPECT

DEFENDING people who are being treated unfairly

The importance of MORAL INTEGRITY

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Genuinely befriending and respecting someone of another race or education level or social class

Moving outside of your comfort zone

Moving from mutual antagonism and transcending to deep friendship

Copyright, Universal Pictures
Films with a similar theme, but different approach

Movie review: “Catch a Fire” (2006)

Movie review: “From One Blood: The Story of Gerrit Wolfaardt” (2003)

Movie review: “In My Country” (2005)

Featuring: Mahershala AliDon Shirley
Viggo MortensenFrank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga
Linda CardelliniDolores Vallelonga
Iqbal Theba … Amit
Dimiter D. Marinov … Oleg
Mike Hatton … George Dyer
P.J. ByrneRecord Producer
Don Stark … Jules Podell
Sebastian Maniscalco … Johnny Venere
Jenna Laurenzo … Fran Venere
Nick Vallelonga … Augie
Brian Stepanek … Graham Kindell
See all »
Director: Peter Farrelly—“Dumb and Dumber To” (2014), “The Three Stooges” (2012), “Hall Pass” (2011), “The Heartbreak Kid” (2007), “Me, Myself and Irene” (2000)
Producer: Participant Media
DreamWorks
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Universal Pictures. Trademark logo.
Universal Pictures

“Inspired by a true friendship”

“Green Book” is based on a true-life friendship between Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a white Italian bouncer, and Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American psychologist and pianist. Both men meet when an unemployed Tony responds to an advertisement stating that a doctor is looking for a chauffeur. Their first encounter is strained, as Tony’s flippant, uncultured behavior clashes with Don’s sophisticated, reserved demeanor. Tony is also shocked to see that Dr. Shirley is African-American. However, Dr. Shirley eventually hires Tony on the strength of others’ word, as he needs someone who can help him stay out of trouble during an eight-week concert tour through the Deep South. Tony is given a copy of the Green Book… by Don’s record studio executive (P.J. Byrne), a guide for black travelers to find safe havens throughout the South.

The men maintain a distant interaction at first. As they travel farther south, Tony and Dr. Shirley clash over their differences. Tony feels uncomfortable being asked to act prim and proper, while Dr. Shirley is disgusted by Tony’s casual lifestyle. However, Tony is impressed by Dr. Shirley’s piano talent, but is appalled by the poor treatment he receives once his performances are over. One night at a bar, a group of white men threaten Dr. Shirley’s life. Tony rescues him by threatening to pull a gun on them. He then instructs Dr. Shirley not to leave his sight for the rest of the tour. In an effort to encourage Tony to express his emotions, Dr. Shirley helps him pen poems in the form of letters to his wife. Tony encourages Dr. Shirley to tap into his fun side by introducing him to fried chicken.

On the night of the tour’s final performance in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Shirley is refused entry into the whites-only dining establishment. After a tense stand-off, with Tony threatening the owners, Dr. Shirley refuses to play the final show in retribution. Instead, he and Tony head to a predominantly African-American jazz club where Don plays crowd-pleasing music to everyone’s delight.

They decide to head back to New York in time for Christmas. Tony invites Dr. Shirley to spend Christmas with him and his family. Initially, Dr. Shirley refuses, thanks Tony for his services, and drives away. However, he changes his mind and shows up at Tony’s apartment, where they welcome him in.

Spiritual Issues

Racism

Scripture states that there is only one race: human. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. God shows no distinction, and neither should we. At first, Tony is blinded by his ignorance. He tries to bond with Dr. Shirley by expressing his knowledge of African-American singers and cannot understand why Dr. Shirley does not like fried chicken or why he isn’t familiar with such performers. His expression of these stereotypes creates tension between both men.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” —Deuteronomy 10:17

Tony finally begins to understand racism when a salesman refuses to let Dr. Shirley try on a suit because the store does not serve African-Americans.

Despite the restraints of the Jim Crow laws (enforced racial segregation), Dr. Shirley is determined to be respected and treated with dignity. However, underneath his poised and conservative demeanor lies bitterness. One example is when the police catch Dr. Shirley skinny-dipping in a public pool with an unidentified white man at night. The officers hand cuff the men. Appalled, Tony requests that the officers cover the men with a towel. He then bribes the officers so that Dr. Shirley and the unknown man are not arrested. Later, Dr. Shirley expresses discontent because he felt he did not deserve to be treated that way and because he felt that the bribe rewarded the officers for their condescending behavior. Discrimination is hard to endure. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive in order be restored.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:32

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

What is Christian LOVE? Answer

Anxiety

Dorothy Dandridge, an African-American actress and singer during the segregation era, said that although she loved performing, she hated having to abide by the Jim Crow laws once she finished performances. Abiding by those laws, and the fear of harassment and its reprisals created a lot of anxiety among people of different ethnicities.

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” —Philippians 4:6

In Tim Tebow’s This Is the Day, he writes:

“When we numb on anything, we cannot see the joy, hope, and light that exists, even when life is hard.”

Both men are arrested after a cop pulls them over late at night and Tony punches him in the face. After their release, Tony is grateful, but a visibly upset Dr. Shirley feels embarrassed for having made a call to his friend U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to get them out. Both men begin to discuss the fact that while they may share commonalities, their worlds are different. Tony expresses how he is a hard-working blue collared man while Dr. Shirley prefers to remain cooped up in his lavish apartment above Carnegie Hall. Dr. Shirley breaks down and expresses that he is lonely and feels out of place.

“I play for white people because it makes them feel cultured. But once my performances are over, I am just another nigger to them, because that is their true culture. And I stay alone because I am not accepted by my own people, because I am not like them either. So, if I am not black, white, or good enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?”

In This Is the Day, Tebow continues, “…numbing can prevent us from seeing the truth in our lives or hinder us from allowing the incredible things God can do through us.”

During the final performance, Dr. Shirley’s band mate, Oleg (Dimeter Marinov), explains to Tony why Dr. Shirley chose to embark on the tour stating, “Genius is not enough. It takes courage to change people’s hearts.”

Moviemaking Quality

I thought the movie was generally fun to watch. Writers Nick Vallelonga (son of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga), Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly took heavy subject matter and added in well-placed humor. The script is witty yet emotional. As a contributor, I left feeling empowered and uplifted. The film won the Toronto International Film Festival’s Grolsch People’s Choice Award.

Historical Facts

Negro Motorist Green Book 1940 edition
1940 edition of the Green Book which lists black-owned businesses and other places where blacks were welcome guests on the basis of “cash rather than color.” And “the wide circulation of the Green Book had attracted growing interest from white businesses that wanted to tap into the potential sales of the black market.” A user of the time, named William Smith praised it, saying, “It is a book badly needed among our Race since the advent of the motor age. Realizing the only way we knew where and how to reach our pleasure resorts was in a way of speaking, by word of mouth, until the publication of The Negro Motorist Green Book.”
The Travelers Green Book Guide for Travel & Vacations
1960 edition

Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga and Don Shirley remained life long friends until their deaths in 2013.

The movie gets its title from The Negro Motorist Green Book written by Victor Hugo Green.

Content of concern

  • Profane language: Heavy— • “J*sus Chr*st” (2) • “Christ” • “for Christ’s sakes” • “J*sus” (2) • “G*d-d*mn” (12+) • “swear to G*d” • “honest to G*d” • “H*ll” (7) • “d*mn” (2)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Heavy— • f-words (2) • “pr*cks” (2) • “N*gger” (many times) • “N*gger-lover” • “Coon” • “king of the jungle bunnies” • “Guineas” • “Eggplant” (In this context, Italians used that term to refer to African-American in a derogatory fashion.) • “fat Jew b*stard” • “Cuban b*stards” • “that dago wop” • “Chink” • “Krauts” • “sh*t” (24) • “cr*p” • a**hole (2) • “a**” (10), including “piece of a**” and “Your mother's a**” • “huge t*ts” (3) • Reference to Pittsburgh as “Tittsburgh” (2) • “balls” (2) • “son of a b*tch” • “b*stard” • “p*ss” (3) • “Gotta take a leak”
  • Sex: Moderately Heavy— • sexual comments • kisses of married couple • It is insinuated that Dr. Don Shirley may have been bisexual. However, aside from a skinny-dipping scene which implies a homosexual encounter, this subject is never revisited.
  • Violence: Mild to Moderate— • bar brawls
  • Nudity: Mild— Dr. Shirley and a white man sit apparently naked on a YMCA floor (not explicit)
  • Occult: None
Editor’s Note: It is interesting to note that some of Don Shirley’s family view this film somewhat differently. According to a Georgia reporter, “Carol Shirley Kimble, the late doctor’s niece…blasted the film and said it makes [Tony] Lip the hero, as opposed to her uncle who was incredibly ahead of his time” (Daryl Nelson, “‘Green Book’ Makes the White Man the Hero Says Family of the Film’s Star Dr. Don Shirley,” Atlanta Black Star, November 24, 2018).

As of this date, Don Shirley’s younger brother Maurice Shirley (86) refuses to watch the movie, because he says it is “full of lies.”

In a message to NPR broadcast on their 1A program, Carol Shirley Kimble recently stated:

“There was no due diligence done to afford my family and my deceased uncle the respect of properly representing him, his legacy, his worth and the excellence in which he operated and the excellence in which he lived. … It’s once again a depiction of a white man’s version of a Black man’s life. My uncle was an incredibly proud man and an incredibly accomplished man, as are the majority of people in my family. And to depict him as less than and to depict him and take away from him and make the story about a hero of a white man for this incredibly accomplished Black man is insulting at best.”

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Secular Movie Critics
…“Green Book” is a thoroughly predictable and conventional true-life drama, but at least Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali make for decent company along the road. …
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
…With “Green Book,” a Farrelly brother is here to make you laugh, cry, and feel better about racism… it flatters the delusion that racism, in its ugliest form, is more of a past-tense problem… At times, “Green Book” plays uncomfortably like a white-savior movie disguised as a slob-versus-snob comedy. …
A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
…There’s not much here you haven’t seen before, and very little that can’t be described as crude, obvious and borderline offensive, even as it tries to be uplifting and affirmative. And yet! …
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
…Two terrific performances and the interplay between the two actors—Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen—are the reasons to see “Green Book.” Their pas de deux is a master class in acting, and the twosome’s give and take provides good company for the road trip that comprises the heart of this narrative. …
Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
…the leads mostly are saddled with literal, middle-of-the-road material. …
Craig D. Lindsey, L.A. Weekly
…In a world that seems to get uglier every day, this movie’s gentle heart and mere humanity feel like a salve. …
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
…Farrelly’s film is worth witnessing, especially given how it is now all but destined to dominate the awards conversation. But do yourself a favour: Each time your fellow moviegoers burst into applause, ask just who it is they’re clapping for. …
Barry Hertz, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
…An enjoyable odd couple in the Jim Crow South… a lively and likable diversion…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…Peter Farrelly manages to respect the severity of the characters’ social context while ensuring that “Green Book” never steps outside its protagonists’ relationship, a delicate balancing act that credibly makes a feel-good, effervescent comedy out of its thorny subject matter without ever sanitizing it. …
Jake Coyle, Slant Magazine
…one of the best and most memorable films in a decade…
Rex Reed, The New York Observer