3 (out of 4)
The Farrelly brothers can be most affectionately labeled proto-Apatow, but Green Book is far removed from their aged breed of humor. The comedy twosome grew more irrelevant with time but Peter – breaking away from Bobby (not the dumber, just the unluckier of the pair) – rejuvenated the merit of the Farrelly name overnight with Green Book, a film long donned with Oscar cachet since it received the People's Choice Award at TIFF.
Removed from a contextual acquaintance with Dumb and Dumber or There’s Something About Mary – not to mention ignoring the candor of its depiction of some kind of historical truth – Peter Farrelly's Green Book comes across as an effortlessly comic road trip movie embroiled with a few worthwhile sentiments and some impressive performances. The average viewer, cynicism not entirely deep-seated, will likely find the film's structure and themes timeless, translating soiled clichés into tender holiday escapism.
Still, between Don Shirley's nephew speaking out in sharp protest to the film's existence and Nick Vallelanga's own partiality in penning the script, the entire agenda of this movie will have people choosing sides in these unequivocally divisive times, especially vying over what qualifies as tact in regards to race relations. The younger Shirley resents that the son of Viggo Mortensen's character Lip Vallelanga went ahead with the film and, without his input which was indeed asked for, created what young Shirley believes to be a total fabrication. That's sure to be irksome, particularly given the "true friendship" part of the tagline. According to his kin, Shirley never considered Vallelanga a friend – therefore the film has no merit apparently, despite the fact that Farrelly's script purposely showcases him through a gradually more empathetic eye and given the respect with which Mahershala Ali plays Shirley.
All I'm saying is why complain later when you had the chance to improve the inevitable beforehand? And how often do we actually believe supposed true stories in film play out exactly as they occur? Green Book isn't Zodiac, and as painstaking as David Fincher's great film is there are liberties taken for the sake of cinematic storytelling. Maybe Shirley really despised Vallelanga – still this road trip happened and the sentiments meant to be imparted are pretty indispensable, especially considering how much attention is paid to Shirley's undeniable virtuosity.
Following the sad and shameful hit and miss hilarity of Dumb and Dumber and the vivid screwball romance of Mary, Green Book is a natural result of slyly tender maturity eventually outweighing the crude humor. In writing alone Farrelly's film far exceeds any former expectations but the performances are what seals Green Book as spellbinding even at its most treacly. Ali is a recent Oscar winner and all but confirmed to become another and Mortensen is sadly playing fourth whistle to Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and finally Rami Malek. Their caricatures become surprisingly real by the hallmark conclusion and the performers each deserve their due praise.
It may fit the blueprint of today's average Oscar bait, but damn if Green Book doesn’t strike you like it's supposed to. It’s design is to please the mild temperaments of educated liberals but it’s so effortlessly classic (more Rain Man than Driving Miss Daisy if we're comparing BP winners) that its glaring faults are worth forgiving. Truthfulness and triteness rest but a few, ham-filled degrees apart, so despite superficially appearing to be a product of the latter category, Peter Farrelly possesses the uncommon ability to see past today's politics to arrive at a veracious destination free of the acrimony associated with his past work and any agendas of another us v. them position in today's political atmosphere.
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