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Why "Green Book" Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

Kedan is a seasoned movie buff and pop culture fanatic. He loves the escape of the cinema.

From Director Peter Farrelly, A Story About Overcoming Adversity and The Unlikely Bonds Life Creates

It is impossible to read any form of social media movie buzz without the mention of Green Book. A story of how an unlikely friendship formed under even more unlikely circumstances helps two people overcome bias and reminds us how love and music can cure anything. What is the story? Who are the cast? Why should I watch it? I will answer all these questions in this look into this summer's comedy drama. Spoilers ahead.

Green Book


Story and Relatable Characters

Set in the 1960s, the story follows African-American musical prodigy Doctor Don Shirley and his tour of the Deep South. He enlists a New York night club bouncer and "muscle", Frank Vallelonga, as his bodyguard and driver. Both men face fears and certain prejudices that they have to overcome in order to make the bond work and tour a success. Shirley faces the racism and segregation of performing a style of music different from his counterparts in the jazz field, as well as in establishments that did not cater to African Americans. Vallelonga faces his childhood views of racism and stereotypes he had been exposed to all his life in order to be Shirley's bodyguard and secure the work to support his family. A friendship forms between the two as they dispel myths they once had, learn to be accepting and supportive of opposing views, and ultimately enrich each other's lives for the better. I can feel the good vibes already.

You don't have to be a musical prodigy or bouncer for that matter to find the characters relatable. We have all been faced with being judged and misunderstood for simply being who we are. In line with that, we have likely been judged for not being something or acting a certain way in order to follow our dreams and be better than we were the day before. In the same light, we have all faced the pressure to fight back against what we know is wrong, but are punished for bravery because it may not be the status quo at the time, even if the status quo is wrong and outdated. Green Book hits close to home because we see ourselves in the characters and that is what makes a good story and movie.

Scene from Green Book


Casting and Performances

Naturally, for the movie to succeed, the casting would need to be precise. Enter Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as Vallelonga and Shirley respectively. The actors would echo their characters as they themselves had not worked together previously as well on this scale. That being said, the characters were in good hands as both actors were critically acclaimed and seasoned veterans.

Ali delivered a truly memorising performance from his precise movements, carefully structured dialogue, and strict demeanour. All character traits that the actual Don Shirley possessed. Ali immersed himself in the character and tapped into his own experiences in order to create a person who, in truth, is all of us in some way. An echo to his ability we have seen before in Moonlight. His performance has garnered acclaim, winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor alongside the much coveted, Academy Award. If you are counting score, that is two Academy Awards for Ali now and personally, I think there is more to come.

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The success of the movie and Ali's performance is of course anchored by Mortensen, who is no stranger to the Oscars, being nominated himself multiple times. To play a character immersed in a racially charged period where anyone who stood up for human rights was chastised, he portrayed Vallelonga with a certain finesse and charm. In that light, he appealed to all the audience about fighting back against what we know is wrong and being open minded just enough to allow change and see there is good in the world. That and fried chicken. (Watch the movie and you will understand!) To both these distinguished actors, we salute you.

Ali At The Golden Globes


Green Book is Timeless

Despite the events of the film taking place nearly 60 years ago, we face the same bias and prejudices in our society today. It is less obvious, but still present. Green Book serves as a reminder that these can be overcome through understanding. Understanding that people are different, people are misunderstood, and we can't judge until we have walked a mile in their shoes or driven them a mile as a chauffeur, so to speak. A theme often overlooked in the movie is of course music. A vehicle to tell the story yes, but the music also gives us a glimpse into the contemporary jazz scene at the time. How people were expected to play a certain style when instead, music should be universal and not confined to upbringing, the colour of your skin, or stereotypes. I have always been a fan of contemporary jazz, so this aspect was a bonus for me and for you too.

Ali as Don Shirley


Curtain Call

Let me spell it out, Green Book is a must see for any movie fanatic, music lover, and every day person fighting against struggle. Story, heart, and stellar performances guaranteed. In the years to come, it will serve as a reminder that love trumps hate. Always.

As for me you ask? I am off to brush up on my piano playing skills and make sure there is no whiskey glass close to the keys...

© 2019 Kedan Pentia

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