Green Book Movie Review

posted February 12, 2019 in

Known comedic director Peter Farrelly took a strange turn in his usual slapstick comedy career in 2018 by releasing his new comedy-drama film “Green Book,” based on the true events of Tony Vallelonga and Dr. Donald Shirley. The film was written by Farrelly and Vallelonga’s son, and was based off of conversations/interviews with his father as well as Dr. Shirley and some of the many letters his father wrote to the family while on the tour. “Green Book” follows the unusual friendship of Vallelonga and Shirley after Dr. Shirley hires Tony to be his driver and bodyguard during his musical tour in the deep south in the early 1960s.  During the drive, the two polar opposites enable questions about themselves and the lives they lead, along with the more societal based questions of racial stereotypes, white/financial privilege and more.

When the film begins, audiences are given two very different men with one overlying similarity: They both need something unexpected in their life, and that something ends up to be each other. Tony needs Dr. Shirley for not only the large sums of money, but as someone to realize potential in him and push him to be a better man as well as recognizing his white privilege. Dr. Shirley does need a large Italian-American man as a bodyguard and driver, but needs someone who does not worship him and calls him out on his financial privilege and life he has lead. The two real-life friends are played to near perfection by Viggo Mortensen (Vallelonga) and Mahershala Ali (Dr. Shirley); they both bring something to the cinematic table that could not have been done by other actors.

While “Green Book” is a great film about friendship and road trips, the film has a certain amount of the “white savior” cliché, where a black character needs a white character in a way to become a better person. Tony Vallelonga is, in a way, the white savior, coming to Dr. Shirley’s rescue anytime he’s in a dangerous situation and showing him a better way to live life. The film holds this cliché to a certain point, but never in a malicious or completely obvious way. It then becomes less prominent when the two men start to realize they are more similar than different, and see each other as equals.

Throughout the film, the audience’s main viewpoints are from the blue Cadillac, listening to the humorous, but sometimes serious arguments between Tony and Dr. Shirley. Dr. Shirley seems to be the reasonable one in most of the arguments. He mainly represents Tony’s conscious, talking to him from the back of the car like a conscious would in the back of one’s head, inviting him to think rationally, reasonably, and questioning the things he has done and continues to do in his life. To some, and especially to Vallelonga, Dr. Shirley comes off as pretentious and judgmental in the beginning of the film while Vallelonga comes off as uneducated and dim-witted. However, throughout its 130-minute run time, “Green Book” crafts a strange, yet beautiful friendship in a way as smooth as the road they drive on throughout the film’s entirety.

Rating: 4/5



Lilly Adams is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact her, email