Film Review: ‘Green Book,’ a road trip peppered with hilarity and humiliation

A still from ‘Green Book.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 24 November 2018

Film Review: ‘Green Book,’ a road trip peppered with hilarity and humiliation

CHENNAI: Peter Farrelly’s latest work, “Green Book,” which had its Middle East premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival last week, captures the agony and angst of African-Americans at a crucial time in US history.
Farrelly presents a deeply moving snapshot of a biased society, but narrates it with delightful humor, in this story about African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who embarks on a concert tour in the Deep South in 1962. Armed with a Green Book — a guide for black travelers with information on safe hotels and other public places — the prosperous Shirley hires tough-talking Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver-cum-muscle and the pair set out on an eventful journey into the heartland of racial prejudices. While Vallelonga is uncouth in his ways, Shirley is a thoroughbred and takes pains to teach his driver social etiquette. When Vallelonga steals a precious stone from a wayside store, Shirley insists that the gem be returned. Vallelonga gets even by forcing his boss to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken, something he has never done before. These lighter moments are neatly woven into a patchwork with the humiliating, difficult to digest incidents that Shirley faces. While he is welcome to play at some of the poshest theaters and hotels in the Deep South, he is not allowed to use their conveniences — not even their restaurants — due to the color of his skin.
Based on a true story — interviews with the real-life Shirley and Vallelonga’s accounts of the concert tour were reportedly the primary sources for the original screenplay — the film was co-written by Vallelonga’s son, Nick. It is a departure from Farrelly’s most famous films, “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” as it provides a serious study of racism in the US, along with a healthy dose of humor.
It is saddening to see Shirley suffer through the torturous trials he is put through, incidents that serve as a reminder of what was a daily reality for so many not so long ago. While Mortensen shines in his role, it is ultimately Ali who steals the show as a trailblazing pianist with a point to prove.

Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

Music artist 'Alexis.' (Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2019

Life lessons from inspirational women — Alexis

  • UAE-based singer-songwriter, Alexis just released her album “This Is Me”
  • She talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

DUBAI: The UAE-based singer-songwriter, who just released her album “This Is Me,” talks tolerance, proving yourself, and the power of words

I’m very demanding of myself, which is a contradiction, because I’m so understanding and accepting of the weaknesses of other people, but I’m not that kind to myself. But I don’t mind laughing at myself either.


I’ve been guilty, earlier in my career, of trying to force situations. Sometimes pushing is good, but allowing things to happen in their own time is also a valuable skill. It’s not necessarily about the destination; it’s the journey. And if you can allow yourself to enjoy the journey, you’ll get there eventually — perhaps in a better condition.


My father encouraged me to be an individual thinker. He’s a man who has roots in a very conservative, male-driven culture, but he was raised by a woman who wasn’t afraid to break the mold. He advised me that because of what I look like, and being a woman, I would always need to be more than just adequately prepared: “If you’re required to know two things for a job, when you walk in there you need to know four or six things.”


I know it’s probably just something parents tell their kids to help them get through difficult situations, but I think that “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you” thing is such nonsense. Words can hurt. They can cause incredible damage. It’s important for us to realize the impact of what we say, how we say it, and to whom. Words have power.


I handled my own business from the very beginning, so I found myself at 18 going into meetings with executives who were in their 40s and 50s. And of course I was a child to them. So having them look beyond the physical thing and realize that I was very serious about my work and knew what I was talking about was a challenge. It’s easy to see me as a fashion horse. It’s harder to see that I’m a worker. Get past the window dressing and I’ve got quality merchandise. But I survived life with older brothers. I think I can tackle anything at this point.


Men and women are equally capable, but in different ways. It’s a bit of a generalization, but we have to accept that different people have different methodologies.