LFF 2018: Green Book

Year: 2018
Directed by: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Linda Cardellini, Mahershala Ali

Written by Sarah Buddery

To the surprise of everyone (who was able to avoid social media at least!) the surprise film at London Film Festival this year was Green Book; the Peter Farrelly (Yes, a Farrelly brother) directed film based on the true story of musician Don Shirley.

With the leading roles played by two actors synonymous with awards success – Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen – those in the know were already expecting great things from this film, and to those who perhaps were less aware, this film did indeed turn out to be a surprise in more ways than one.

Anchored by two fantastic leading performances, Green Book is a heartfelt, charming, and endlessly watchable film about friendship, differences, race, music, and family. A possibly strange comparison to make but it comes across as a slightly higher calibre Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Ali and Mortensen having a natural “odd couple” friendship, and with the plot focused towards making it home in time for the Holidays evoking the spirit of the aforementioned 1987 comedy classic.

What Green Book has that gives it the edge, however, is much greater thematic richness, and whilst on the surface level it is an odd couple-road movie, the issues of race and identity are also explored in beautiful ways. Don Shirley (Ali) is an enigmatic character, but behind the outward displays of wealth is a man whose music is considered “too white” to those of his shared heritage, and the colour of his skin is something which still leads to him being openly discriminated against. The “green book” of the title refers to the guide that Mortensen’s driver to Shirley, Tony, is handed, which provides guidance on appropriate hotels and restaurants that Shirley would be welcomed into.

Initially, Tony is seen as quite prejudiced and it is his journey throughout this film is an incredibly interesting one. Both characters in fact have arcs that are incredibly different, yet they tie so beautifully together in tandem, with a certain musicality that seems fitting for the subject matter. Tony is a tough guy, a family man, but also a man who fails to see a world much beyond his locale. Don, on the other hand, is well travelled, but also incredibly closed off to those around him. He gives off the air of someone who doesn’t want to open up to people and would much prefer to keep himself to himself.

Of course with a film like this there is some degree of predictability. We know the characters are going to see some growth and change throughout the course of the film, barriers will be broken down, and they’ll emerge on the other side as changed men. However, despite all of that, Green Book remains incredibly charming throughout. There is a bounce and an exuberance to the film, with a natural chemistry between the two leads. It really is impossible not to fall in love with this film.

Mahershala Ali, building on his incredible performance in Moonlight, gives probably the best performance of his career so far. There is such preciseness to his movements and facial expressions, and it takes a great deal of skill to make a character which initially seems so cold, to be instantly likeable. Viggo Mortensen is transformative in the role of Tony, fully embracing the brashness and larger than life persona of the character he is playing, and it is simply a joy to watch the two of them together.

Bolstered by incredible performances, wonderful chemistry, and thematic richness, Green Book is one of the best feel-good films you will see all year. It’ll warm your heart and help you to see the goodness and joy there is in the world. And frankly, that’s something we all need right now.

SARAH’S VERDICT:

4-5

Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali Star In First Trailer For Peter Farrelly’s ‘Green Book’

“When Tony Lip, an Italian-American bouncer with a seventh-grade education, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class African-American pianist on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on the “Negro Motorist Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for Blacks. Confronted with racism, danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.”

Directed by: Peter Farrelly

Cast:  Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini,

Release Date: February 8th, 2019

JUMPCUT’s Favourites: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Year: 2001
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Dominic Monaghan

Written by Jo Craig

As a restless ten-year-old, shuffling around the toy section at Woolworths had become an unspoken talent among youngsters, able to sail from aisle to aisle while barely glancing at the shelves and somehow gather that there were no new gadgets to impress. That was until an oval, green box with a black, hooded figure inside caught my eye, and I stopped and asked my Aunt who tolerated my shuffling, “What’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’?”

Remembering that introduction vividly, as well as my super-cool Mum letting me skip school on December 19th, 2001 to view a true spectacle that was ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’, becoming one of the first films I recall being deliriously giddy at the faint mention of it. Combined with two sequels, ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘The Return of the King’, Peter Jackson’s vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s written masterpiece has stood the test of time against modern, CGI enthused films and was the first motion picture that ignited my burning love for the movies.

In summary, ‘Fellowship’ acquaints us with fearless Hobbits, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and the most beloved TLOTR character Sam (Sean Astin), embarking on their journey to destroy the one ring and its ruler, the Dark Lord Sauron (Sala Baker). Travelling across Middle-Earth through villages, elven realms, mines and mountains, Frodo, Sam and their selected eight companions, fellow Hobbits Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Boromir (Sean Bean) (not forgetting Bill the trusted steed), combine their efforts as “The Fellowship of the Ring” and battle the evil that stands in their way.  

As a kid, ‘TFOTR’ was made unique by my failure to recognise the cast as actors, as I was still ignorant towards the concept of “acting”. This misconception insisted each role was the real deal, and that movies were some sort of a found footage experience where in some parallel universe Elves, Men and Orcs really were at war. Ah, to be young again. Viggo Mortensen who played my treasured Aragorn has now become a favoured actor who I admire in alternative roles but his portrayal of Strider, the Ranger of the North remains undefeated. With a tremendous amount of production piled into all three movies, ‘Fellowship’ relies on prosthetics and set pieces with a modest amount of CGI to construct its magical world, creating a more intimate experience that the sequels lost to grandeur. The beautiful score (that embarrassingly became my homework music), scenery and props all contributed to an eagerness to explore the outdoors and make flimsy weapons out of deformed sticks and tin foil.

The amount of graft and ingenuity that went into creating Middle-Earth and its inhabitants, winning four Oscars (seventeen for the entire trilogy) for Original Score, Makeup, Cinematography and Visual Effects, has a great deal to say about ‘The Hobbit’; a prequel trilogy that only won the Sci-Fi Tech Award and to this day makes a sixteen-year-old adventure look a thousand “po-ta-toes” better. Each component that brought TLOTR into visual existence created wonder throughout my late childhood and instilled a nostalgic release that triggered every time that tin whistle sang out The Shire theme.

Although the trilogy as a whole is phenomenal, ‘Fellowship’ will always remain my preferred instalment as it showcased film on a scale the world had never seen before, inviting us into a fantasy we were desperate to see more of and of course, the horseback Ringwraiths were badass. A film I could replay and recite until the end of my days and still manage to catch an extra cameo of Peter Jackson, ‘TFOTR’ will remain my ‘go-to’ movie of a lifetime that paved the way for my aspiring career and invoked a passion for exquisite cinema that I am forever grateful for.

Tommy Lee Jones Added To Bourne Cast

Tommy Lee Jones is the latest addition to the growing and somewhat impressive cast list for the next instalment in the Bourne franchise. There have been no hints towards who Jones’ character will be, but he’s an another big name to add to a crew which already includes Alicia Vikander, Viggo Mortensen, Julia Stiles and, of course, the returning Matt Damon. The upcoming sequel also sees Paul Greengrass return to the director’s chair. It would appear that this latest offering has the potential to revitalise the Bourne franchise, after the disappointing Renner spin-off, by reverting back to tried and tested personnel.

The latest Bourne film is set for UK cinema release in 2016. It is untitled as of yet, but if the books are anything to go by, it should be titled ‘The Bourne Betrayal’. Time will tell.

Written by Nick Deal