Reviewed by: Samiatu Dosunmu
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
History of racial segregation
Wise ways to deal with discrimination, prejudice and the ugliness of bigotry
Dealing with personal and unjust humiliation
Dealing with barriers encountered in life in a wise and productive way
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
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
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 Ali … Don Shirley
Viggo Mortensen … Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga
Linda Cardellini … Dolores Vallelonga
Iqbal Theba … Amit
Dimiter D. Marinov … Oleg
Mike Hatton … George Dyer
P.J. Byrne … Record Producer
Don Stark … Jules Podell
Sebastian Maniscalco … Johnny Venere
Jenna Laurenzo … Fran Venere
Nick Vallelonga … Augie
Brian Stepanek … Graham Kindell
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|Director:||Peter Farrelly—“Dumb and Dumber To” (2014), “The Three Stooges” (2012), “Hall Pass” (2011), “The Heartbreak Kid” (2007), “Me, Myself and Irene” (2000)|
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“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.
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.
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
What is Christian LOVE? Answer
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.
In Tim Tebow’s This Is the Day, he writes:
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.”
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.
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.
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.