THE GREEN BOOK – Review by Susan Granger

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This fascinating, true story of an unlikely friendship begins with Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an elegant, educated Jamaican-American classical pianist who lived in an apartment above Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall.

In 1962 when his record company sends him on a concert tour of the Deep South, Dr. Shirley hires a gruff, gluttonous, street-wise bouncer from the Copacabana nightclub to be his driver/road manager.

Known as “Tony Lip” (Viggo Mortensen) because his real name of Vallelonga was difficult to pronounce, Tony is an admittedly racist Italian. Married to Dolores (Linda Cardinelli), they live in the Bronx with their two kids and extended family. Even though this job will take him away for two months, it’s a good payday – and he’ll be home for Christmas.

So chain-smoking Tony hits the road in a turquoise Cadillac with starchy, stoic Dr. Shirley. Along the way, they discover much about one another, overcoming their personal differences while facing the inevitable humiliations and indignities of racial prejudice.

After many years of collaborating with his brother Bobby on grossed-out comedies (“Dumb and Dumber” franchise, “Something About Mary”), this is Peter Farrelly’s first attempt at directing solo, and he does a dandy job, working from an astute, character-driven script by Nick Vallelonga (Tony’s son) and Brian Hayes Currie that ignites the honest chemistry between Mortensen and Ali.

The title refers to Victor Hugo Green’s “The Negro Motorist’s Green Book,” published annually from 1936-1966 to inform black travelers where they could safely eat and stay overnight.

Kudos to cinematographer Sean Porter and production designer Tim Galvin for authenticating the bleak intolerance of the Jim Crow era – and to Kris Bowers, who composed the score and rerecorded Shirley’s arrangements for the soundtrack.

FYI: Recognized as a child prodigy, Donald Shirley grew up in Pensacola, Florida. Although he was known as Dr. Shirley, his degrees were honorary, recognizing his combination of classical, jazz and pop music.

Although comparisons with “Driving Miss Daisy” are inevitable, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Green Book” is an inspiring, uplifting 8. It’s heartfelt drama.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.