GREEN BOOK: It’s highly ironic to me when a movie about an interracial friendship possesses a number of stereotypes that exist and are alternately ridiculed. It’s what’s present in this derivative plot about a hard-nosed nightclub bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) in the Bronx who’s hired to drive a renowned, black concert pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour that includes stops in the Jim Crow south circa 1962. The former is your typical crude Italian “goombah” who’s definitely rough around the edges with the ability to take out an obnoxious drunken patron or a bucket of KFC with equal dispatch. On the other hand, his “boss” is the epitome of a tortured artists living in near palatial isolation from the “white world” who appreciates his prodigious talents but refuses to acknowledge him as their equal and whose own race can’t relate to his elite station. One of the most poignant scenes in the film occurs when the travelers break down with an overheated radiator and a group of black sharecroppers can only stare in amazement at watching a white man defer and serve a person of color sitting regally in the vehicle’s back seat. The dissimilar natures of the two men come into constant conflict as they’re confined in close quarters on a road trip that eventually morphs into a “buddy movie” when Ali (MOONLIGHT) plays Cyrano de Bergerac and helps his “chauffeur” write exquisitely penned love letters to his wife (Linda Cardellini). As is the case with most road flicks, there are experiences along the way that bond them together as they come in contact with stereotypical Southern racists that no doubt existed in the onset of the civil rights era and whose progeny are likely still fighting the Civil War. Both lead characters have great chemistry with each other and the dialogue, which is both humorous and insightful, is well-written by co-writer/director Peter Farrelly (THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY) and Nick Vallelonga who’s the real-life son of the Mortensen (See CLOSING CREDITS.) character. It’s almost inevitable that every critic and his dog will likely describe this work as a racial flip of DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989) and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing because like that Morgan Freeman-Jessica Tandy film, this work has a sort of genteel entertainment about it, that though somewhat shallow, does make for a smooth, enjoyable ride. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other movies starring Viggo Mortensen who looks like this era’s answer to Kirk Douglas (SPARTACUS) – WITNESS (1985), THE INDIAN RUNNER (1991), CARLITO’S WAY (1993), CRIMSON TIDE (1995), DAYLIGHT (1996), A PERFECT MURDER (1998), LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001), LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002), LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003), HIDALGO (2004), A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005), EASTERN PROMISES (2007)*, THE ROAD (2009), A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011), CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016)*

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor