If it weren’t for the stars of the 1950s set drama Green Book, I’m not sure what kind of takeaway one might have. The casting of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in the lead roles is so crucial that they literally deliver the picture through troubled waters when it comes perilously close to falling prey to clichés found in most movies where two people of different ethnicities must come together. As such, Green Book manages to succeed better than it has any right to considering the tendency of director Peter Farrelly to eschew nuance in favor of bludgeoning the viewer over the head with its social message.   

Mortensen & Ali in Green Book

The film, based on a true story, concerns Italian bouncer Tony Lip (Mortensen), who finds himself briefly unemployed. In the interim he takes a job driving African American jazz musician, Don Shirley (Ali) from concert to concert through the deep South at a time when not all hotels would allow people of color to rent a room for the night. Tony must consult the Green Book of the film’s title, which alerts him to the hotels that are welcoming. Along the way the two men bond and develop a friendship, growing deeply in the process.   

Green Book feels like a companion piece to the Oscar winner Driving Miss Daisy, and it works on that same level. For all of its flaws it still provides an engrossing experience that, due to those great performances, manages to resonate.

Green Book is playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].