It's been a hot minute since we've had a cute racism movie like Green Book. These are usually a period piece set in a time (the '50s or '60s) and a place (the South!) when black people or some other systematically oppressed minority are treated like shit by white people. And right in the middle of it, amid all this racial tension, a friendship, a bond or -- dare I say it! -- a romance blossoms between two people of different skin tones. This unexpected union proves that -- oh damn! -- people aren't that different after all. I assume they aren't made often because, for starters, racism isn't cute. It's ugly, brutal, pathetic and, sadly, still around. Most of these movies offered (predominantly white) audiences the comforting sense that racism is a thing of the past.
The white person who doesn't have a problem with the coloreds in Green Book is Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), also known as Tony Lip, an Italian-American nightclub bouncer breaking up fights and busting heads in the Bronx, circa 1962. The African-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires him to drive through the Jim Crow South, as Shirley boldly gives performances for uppity Southern white folk.
Sure, it's kind of entertaining to see the studly, studious Mortensen slap on a few pounds and go way out with the fuggeddaboutit talk as he tries to shoot the shit with Ali's pedantic, closeted virtuoso. It's the first time I've ever seen him ham it up. But the leads mostly are saddled with literal, middle-of-the-road material. Bottom line: If you think Green Book is not going to end with these two locked in a warm embrace, you're crazy!
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