Tony Vallelonga, nicknamed Guba (Viggo Mortensen), is an Italian-American who works as a bouncer at the cool Copacabana club. However, the club was closed for several months, and now Tony is looking for a job. Once an Italian friend called him and said that a doctor needed a driver. Tony comes to the specified address and finds out that Carnegie Hall is located there. But there is no mistake: Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) lives in a luxurious apartment above the concert hall.
Somewhat to the embarrassment of Tony, who, as befits a decent Italian, is a hardcore racist, Doc is black. He is a virtuoso pianist and with his trio is going on a tour of the most racist states – Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee.
Shirley is well aware of what he may encounter in the southern states, so he needs not just a driver, but a person who, on the one hand, will also be his bodyguard, and on the other hand, will solve all sorts of sensitive issues. Doc made inquiries with serious people, many of whom recommended Tony for such tasks.
The money was good, plus Doc agreed to the rate Guba had asked for himself, and as a result they agreed that Tony would be Don Shirley’s driver and bodyguard for the eight weeks of the trip.
Tony’s wife and Italian relatives believe that he will not survive even a week at such a job, but Tony is broke, there will be no work for several months, the money is desperately needed – and he agrees. The record company paying for the trip gives Tony the famous The Negro Motorist Green Book, an 80-page pamphlet that provides valuable advice to African Americans on which hotels, restaurants, bars, and gas stations to go to. they are safe to visit while traveling.
Now Don and Tony are on a long journey that will markedly change both of them.
In 1962, black virtuoso pianist Don “Doc” Shirley embarked on a tour of the southern states of the United States. His driver and bodyguard was Tony Vallelonga, a white man nicknamed Tony Lip.
This Tony Vallelonga, who started out as a bouncer in various clubs, made acquaintances with several famous mafiosi who then actively invested money in the production of films, and as a result, under the name Tony Lip, he made not only a brilliant, but quite impressive film career, starring in small roles. in films such as Raging Bull, The Godfather, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, he also starred in the TV series Law & Order and played Carmine Lupetazzi in The Sopranos.
The story of Don Shirley and Tony Vallelonga’s trip was turned into a screenplay, and Tony’s son Nick Vallelonga took part in this. By the way, Nick Vallelonga is also an actor who starred in almost forty films and TV shows (in this film he played a mafia named Augie), and as a director he directed five little-known films that were released only on disks.
Nick Vallelonga as Ogie
How much the script of this film correlates with what actually happened there is completely unknown. It is only known that the relatives of Don Shirley claimed that many things in the picture were noticeably distorted. On the other hand, what difference does it make what actually happened there, let’s better talk about how it’s all set.
Speaking of the production, it is quite important to mention here that the film was directed by Peter Farelli, who, along with his brother Bobby, made the super-successful comedies Dumb and Dumber, Mad About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene, also he staged some episode in the nauseating comedy “Movie 43”. Well, after all this magnificence, you can say – right after “Dumb and Dumber 2” Farelli, hello, puts the picture “Green Book”, which, although it received the Golden Globe in the “Comedy or Musical” section, but on in fact, it is a tragicomedy, and quite subtle and smart, which is somehow completely uncharacteristic for Farelli, almost all of whose films are based on outright vulgarity and purely physiological jokes – that’s why they are so popular.
Green Book is a great movie. In fact, I didn’t expect anything special from him – just think, the main Oscar. It does not always happen that the main “Oscar” is an outstanding film: suffice it to recall that in 2001 the absolutely pop “Gladiator” received the main prize.
But here, as they say, hit the mark. The most interesting thing about this film is the style in which it is filmed. Despite the fact that here, in general, the whole picture is built on such a shameful phenomenon as the “Green Book” and racial segregation (there is, of course, nothing shameful in the “Green Book” itself, the shame is that it had to be published: by the way, they stopped publishing it only in 1967, three years after the adoption of the famous “Civil Rights Act”), all this was removed quite neatly and without pedaling the horrors of segregation. And in general, the picture can be considered a kind of Christmas tragicomedy.
First of all, it is interesting to observe the relationship of two completely different people here: a bully of Italian origin with his primitive language and the same primitive ideas about life as such, and a man with an excellent education, a wonderful, very imaginative literary language and several academic degrees in various fields. (Therefore, in fact, they call him a “doctor” – this is an academic degree.)
At the same time, Tony, who lives in a large Italian family and seems to be bound by all sorts of conventions and stereotypes, is a very free person purely internally, and Don, who, with all his wealth and fame, has the audacity to be not only a black man, but also a gay Jew, – the person is very constrained and infinitely lonely.
And they can give each other a lot. Tony brings Don closer to the realities of this life, and Don gradually brings Tony to a new level of perception – and this is really very interesting to watch, especially since it’s all played simply flawlessly, both from one side and the other.
Both key roles are amazing. Viggo Mortensen as an actor is extremely diverse and is able to create such different types that it is simply amazing. Compare, for example, Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, English assassin John from Vice for Export, and artist David Shaw from The Perfect Murder. Here is a completely new type. A kind of strong man of Italian origin, who tries to stay away from bandits, dearly loves his Italian family, listens to relatives, despises any nation other than Italian, is purely peasant-smart and cunning, knows how to adapt to certain circumstances.
It is with Don that he adapts. Two people who are at opposite ends of this universe, during a long journey together, begin to approach each other. There is one very funny episode where Tony asks Don why he doesn’t eat fried chicken and listen to jazz. And then he says that of the two of them, the real Negro is he, Tony! He lives in a poor neighborhood, he has little money, he listens to jazz, he eats cheap fried chicken. And which of us is a Negro, asks Tony?
I read in some reviews all sorts of claims that, they say, at that time it was generally not clear why the Negro pianist was so rich all of a sudden, why the Negro pianist suddenly went south, what were the problems with segregation and that’s all such. Everything is unreliable, these people write.
There are a few things to understand here. In those days, concert pianists were extremely popular and gathered huge halls. Suffice it to recall Wladzi Valentino Liberace, who was the highest paid artist in the world during the 50s and 70s. He played pop tunes. All the concerts consisted of the fact that Liberace led some kind of entertainer and played the huge piano. Moreover, he started as a classical pianist, and Paderevsky himself admired his playing, but he preferred to go to pop pianists and become one of the most famous and rich people in show business. (Stephen Soderbergh made a good movie about him, Behind the Candelabra, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.)
For some reason, Don Shirley is called a jazz pianist in some reviews. Nothing like that! He is not a jazz pianist! He has a trio with cello and double bass (his cellist, and Don himself, as follows from the film, graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory), and they perform, although quite light, but classical melodies. This is no jazz. The only time he plays something like jazz in the entire film is when Tony takes him to a bar for blacks.
The film clearly states that Don is a virtuoso pianist who has repeatedly performed at the White House and, in general, is terribly popular. Is that why he took the risk of going on a tour of the southern states? Well, an enlightened audience is waiting for him there. Why not? There were many black performers in the famous Cotton Club. Who did not have the right to enter the auditorium, because it is only for whites. It didn’t bother anyone. Let the blacks entertain us, but come to us – no, no.
This is shown in the picture. White people love to come to Don’s concerts, but he is not even allowed to pee in the toilet in the same building where he performs, because he is a black bitch, and the local toilet is for whites. Shuruy, boy, go outside under the bushes, and then come back – we will listen to you play, we are pinned.
What do you say it didn’t happen? And how it was. And in the film this is shown very carefully, without trying to squeeze a tear out of the viewer. Yeah, that’s the way it is: play here, but go to the black people places to eat, sleep, etc. Actually, the “Green Book” was intended for this – to tell where exactly to go, so as not to get problems.
And in those days, a person with black skin could get an order of magnitude more problems than it is shown in the film. It was enough to go to the wrong bar in the American South – they could easily have been killed.
But back to the role of Mortensen. Viggo, in order to play the Italian thug, had to put on twenty kilograms – in order to look authentic. He also worked hard on his pronunciation – Tony has a very interesting and characteristic way of speaking: an Italian accent, a slightly nasal voice, reminiscent of some Italian mafiosi from old films.
In the original, Tony’s nickname is Lip, but in the film, he explains that he got that nickname because he likes to talk, so in the Spanish dub he was called Chatterbox.
Mortensen’s character turned out to be excellent: simple but cunning, very sociable, good with his fists, but completely non-aggressive. At first, Tony is quite difficult to communicate with Don: they have a very different vocabulary and Tony simply does not understand many of the terms used by Don. But in the end, they still managed to get used to each other.
Viggo for this role was nominated for the Actors Guild Award, the British BAFTA, the Golden Globe, and the Oscar. And he didn’t win anywhere, which, of course, is strange, because the role is brilliant.
However, Mahershala Ali’s role is no less remarkable, and here he is just a complete set of all the above awards and collected in the nomination “Best Supporting Actor”.
His character was very complex. A rich, very lonely, gifted and rather unhappy man – a black homosexual surrounded by America of those years. A certain arrogance and arrogance as a purely defensive reaction, a very rich and figurative literary speech, undoubted personal courage – he well understood what a trip to the racist south could be fraught with for him.
Played just fine: I didn’t even immediately realize that the same actor played Remy Danton in House of Cards, before that this is a completely different type. Mahershala perfectly demonstrated all the facets of this most interesting person in the right circumstances. How he says and what he says, how he behaves in this or that environment, and most importantly, how they communicate with Tony, because this is the basis of the whole picture.
They communicate very funny. Tony talks all the time, pretty tiring Don with this, and Don jokes quite subtly about Tony, but the irony does not reach Tony and he takes everything at face value.
I note, by the way, that Mahershala plays the piano really well. I don’t know if he voiced the musical numbers himself, but he is often shown there during the performance in a medium shot and it is clearly seen that the actor himself plays the keys, and does not imitate the game.
Some viewers and critics reproach director Peter Farelli for the fact that, they say, the picture turned out to be somewhat lubok and sugary – they say, how it all ended, in fact, in chocolate. However, I did not notice any lubok or sugariness here. Well, yes, the ending turned out to be, let’s say, somewhat benevolent, but I didn’t notice any obvious falsehood there, and besides, this is actually a Christmas movie, shot more in the classic old style. What, I note, in general, no one could expect from Peter Farelli, well, honor him and praise him for what he did.
An excellent film, I really liked it, and I already want to review it: there are many small interesting details that you don’t notice at the first viewing.
Listened to the dub. Tony was spoiled intonation great, it doesn’t look like Mortensen’s conversation at all, besides, they made him some kind of gopnik with characteristic purely English words – in the original it all sounds completely different. Don is better made and more correlated with the original. But in general, in dubbing, this all loses a lot – just the same case, because the film is purely colloquial and very intonation – it is very difficult and even almost impossible to adequately convey. However, the rating on Kinopoisk, oddly enough, does not differ at all from the rating on IMDB, although usually American films have a rating on Kinopoisk that is noticeably lower than on IMDB.
This is such a movie. Just like a movie event from last year. I watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “A Star Is Born” and “Black Klansman” from the main nominations. All three films are very good, but I would definitely put Green Book in the first place. It remains to see “Favorite”, “Roma” and “Power”. (“Black Panther” I don’t want to watch, it’s not interesting.)
Green Book movie meaning
Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimitar Marinov, Mike Hutton, PJ Byrne, Joseph Cortese, Maggie Nixon, Von Lewis
Budget: $23 million,
International box office: $144 million,
Tragicomedy, USA, 2018, 130 min.