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(Column) Rice: What I’m Watching Right Now – ‘Green Book’

Kate Rice


Here’s the thing: Green Book’s earned as much controversy as it has awards. It’s based on real people, and not everyone’s on board with the way these “characters” are written. Some people have challenged its real-life accuracy; others claim that it’s “just another white savior movie.” I’m not here to talk about any of that, because no matter the issues surrounding this flick (did it deserve to win the 2019 Best Picture Oscar?), I really dig it, especially around this time of year. 

Green Book refers to the publication African-American travelers consulted when looking for places they could safely patronize in the days of segregation. Set in 1962, it’s the story of classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), his tour through the Deep South, and his need for a driver who can take care of him when the inevitable crap goes down. Shirley interviews Tony “Lip” Vallalonga, (Viggo Mortensen), an out-of-work Italian-American bouncer, for the job. Even though he’s reluctant, Tony eventually agrees to the gig. They’ll be on the road through the holidays, returning home by Christmas. At first, it’s a pleasant journey, but a prickly situation: nice weather and accommodations, but Tony’s a common, vulgar goon, and Shirley’s a stuffy, educated snob.  

Eventually, the circumstances flip — as the two men get to know one another, they become friends. Tony’s still vulgar, but his racist words and beliefs are waning. And Shirley’s icy personality begins to thaw. Their journey, however, becomes more tense, uncomfortable, and at times, dangerous. Shirley plays concerts to audiences who fawn over his musicianship, but won’t let him use their bathrooms, or eat in their restaurants. Tony does what he’s paid to do: drive and protect. 

I’m a sucker for a “This experience changed my life” movie, and watching these two get to know one another and develop a friendship just makes me feel good — and the performances in this one are incredible. There were some Oscar nominations and wins that were also controversial, but again, I’m just telling you how I feel. This movie makes me smile, cringe, laugh, and swear (although honestly, many things make me swear. Sorry, mom!). It’s not actually a “holiday” movie, but it’s a feel-good holiday movie for me

Search Green Book streaming options or buy it through Amazon, eBay or businesses like Sonic Rainbow, Best Buy or Target.