Today’s Sunday Movie Review is for Best Picture – Oscar winning movie Green Book. As many of my readers here know, besides the books I prefer to read for light entertainment and escape, my favorite books and movies all have the components of the human spirit and condition based story lines. This is a factual based story of classical American jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley on his roadtrip tour with a most unlikely character – Italian, mob-like Tony the Lip as his hired driver who drives Shirley around on tour in the deep south in 1962, at a time where blacks were being segregated. After watching this movie, it’s isn’t difficult to see why it won for best picture.
Story line: – As written by IMDB.com
In 1962, Tony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, a tough bouncer, is looking for work when his nightclub is closed for renovations. The most promising offer turns out to be the driver for the African-American classical pianist Don Shirley for a concert tour into the Deep South states. Although hardly enthused at working for a black man, Tony accepts the job and they begin their trek armed with The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for safe travel through America’s racial segregation. Together, the snobbishly erudite pianist and the crudely practical bouncer can barely get along with their clashing attitudes to life and ideals. However, as the disparate pair witness and endure America’s appalling injustices on the road, they find a newfound respect for each other’s talents and start to face them together. In doing so, they would nurture a friendship and understanding that would change both their lives.
My 5 Star Review:
New York city, 1962, the Copa nightclub where Tony Lip’s job as ‘bouncer’ comes to a halt because of renovations to the club, leaving him looking for odd jobs to fill in his time and paycheck until the renovations are finished. At the same time, Afro-American classical pianist, Dr. Don Shirley is in search of a driver who can safely drive him throughout the deep south for his road tour.
Tony, as we are first introduced to him would seem the most unlikely character Shirley would pick for the task, but ultimately, Tony becomes the best pick Shirley could have hoped for as demonstrated through the story line. Tony is given the ‘Green Book’ to help him navigate the journey, which includes maps and offers ‘places to stay for black people’ while traveling.
Tony’s low-class, loud mouthed, uncultured, racketeering persona is very off-putting for esteemed Dr. Shirley, yet, as the movie progresses, the two form a bond of friendship, and a learning and acceptance for one another’s plight in life. Tony’s terrible use of language and mobster styled behavior eventually brings the snobbish Doc down a few pegs after spending much time alone together, and after realizing that it was those very unbecoming features of his driver that would help save the life of the good doctor.
As their friendship grows and Tony is faced with defending Doc many times through the journey – getting him out of a lot of racist jams, Tony also learns to appreciate the music of the prodigy doctor. A wonderful movie about friendship and loyalty despite the ugliness of racism.
The story behind the story:
The movie was written by ‘Tony the Lip’s’ son, Nick Vallelonga, who was 5 years old at the time Tony set out for his first tour with Shirley. When he returned and shared many of the road stories about some of the terrible things they encountered on the road of racism, young Nick vowed to make a movie about it someday – and he did. Dr. Shirley made him promise that he wouldn’t share the story publicly until he would die. Shirley died in 2013. You can read more about this true story of blind faith and friendship here, from the Smithsonianmag.