Cinema fans looking to catch up critically acclaimed titles they’ve missed in theatres this season — the wait is over. The awards-garnering behemoth, Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary), is officially available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray and DVD starting this week.
Winner of three golden globes (Best Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali) and recently three Academy Awards (Original Screenplay, Best Picture and Actor in a Supporting Role Mahershala Ali), the based-on-a-true-story motion picture is as much about two men learning to overcome personal differences and their own internal biases as it is racism in early 1960s America.
Green Book stars Viggo Mortensen as Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a hard-nosed Italian American nightclub bouncer from the Bronx hired to drive the aforementioned Mahershala Ali, playing piano virtuoso Don Shirley, on a concert tour across the deep south; and Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men) as Lip’s doting wife.
The movie is named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, an actual travel guide that was published annually between 1936 and 1966 detailing safe places for Black motorists to dine and stay in during the height of racial segregation in the United States. The document is referenced lightly over the 2 hours and 10 minutes but represents a kind of cultural touchstone for the picture.
Growing up sheltered within the world of music, Shirley is portrayed possessing a certain naïveté to the harsh realities of ethnic relations at the time, choosing to wander into the “White only” establishments and getting beat up and/or locked up in the process. Vallelonga routinely comes to his aid, and at first keeps the audience guessing whether its to keep his job — he only gets paid the full promised fee if his client makes it to every one of his tour dates — or due to a growing affinity for the pianist (hint: it’s the latter).
Needless to say both characters undergo significant growth. Vallelonga, who in an early scene is shown throwing away two of his own drinking glasses used by Black contactors in his own home, while Shirley constantly reminds his working-class driver that he talks and acts like an uneducated buffoon.
The catalyst, if I had to pick one, would be a certain sharing of KFC in the car somewhere around the mid-way point. By the end of the film, the two are like brothers seen sharing a home-cooked Christmas meal.
After the credits, viewers can still enjoy three bonus features. “Virtuoso Performances” pulls back the curtain with Mortensen and Ali talking about how they got into character; “An Unforgettable Friendship” highlights cast and filmmakers discussing the friendship between the real life Shirley and Lip, and “Going Beyond the Green Book,” which looks at the significance of The Negro Motorist Green Book.