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Green Book Gets the Green Light! [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s the 1960s and Don Shirley, originally from Jamaica, a renowned classical pianist, is the darling of the east coast wealthy elite. While he’s not the outspoken civil right advocate type, he believes that displaying his talents in the segregated south might help to change the rigidly racist views held in that part of the country. So Shirley (Mahershala Ali), or Dr. Shirley, as he was referred to because of his Ph.D., and his record company hired-bouncer, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to serve as his driver/bodyguard during the trip south. The odd couple has very little in common. Shirley is highly educated, cultured and lives alone in his Manhattan penthouse. Vallelonga is a family man, not formally educated and steeped in the customs of the Bronx Italian American community where he lives.

Green Book is everything a film should be. It’s amusing, entertaining and educational. The film’s title refers to the real publication, The Negro Motorist Green Book, which guided black travelers as to what hotels and facilities they could stay in, eat at and/or have their vehicles serviced while traveling through segregated states.

The two characters exchanged views and disagreed on about everything from food to music, to driving habits, and even on writing letters. There’s a validity to positions taken by both of them. And Dr. Shirley’s lack of familiarity with black performers such as Chubby Checker and Aretha Franklin shocks Vallelonga.

The fact that the screenplay’s co-written by Nick Vallelonga, and the director, Peter Farrelly results in Vallelonga’s character being a bit more credible and consistent. Dr. Shirley’s character is written where he knows well the rules of the Jim Crow south and seems to accept them but without any explanation tries to reject them. Like when he suddenly insists on eating in the formal dining room at a club where he played. This had not been an issue before or thereafter. So why in that scene?

However, in a very subtle and effective way, the screenwriters capture the doctor’s loneliness as a well-educated and refined single black man who would never be accepted as a part of a community of people he performed for; and did not have much in common with most black Americans at that time.

Based upon a true story set in the early 1960s, the film’s dialogue has some current day phrases like traveling while black. And the often heard rhetorical question about strange behavior: Who does that?

Part of the Green Book’s success is due to the excellent performances of the two lead characters. There has been Oscar buzz about both Ali and Mortensen. The selection of the darker Ali to play lighter hued, Dr. Shirley, raises an issue that black journalists have discussed before: why are famous black people played by actors who look nothing them, i.e. the fair skinned, light eyed, Terrence Howard playing the South African leader, Nelson Mandela. While how much a performer looks like the famed white person he or she will play, is always a factor.

The characters reflect not only the rich diversity of cultures in New York City but how very different communities reside in close proximity. Vallelonga’s folksy Bronx neighborhood was very likely no more than a mile or two from Dr. Shirley’s wealthy Manhattan enclave.

The cast of the film is diverse. However, it’s difficult to grade the diversity of the cast of a true movie. It has to be assumed that the scenes accurately reflect the races of the people at the time the events occurred.

Ultimately, Green Book is more than a movie; it’s an experience. It gets a See It! rating. It’s rated PG-13 for language, smoking, violence, and some suggestive material. Green Book is 130 minutes in length.

What's The 411 Episode 65: Hollywood and Politics as White House Holds State Dinner for China

Plus, Shonda Rhimes gets a larger slice of Hollywood; Apollo Theater breaks new ground; Sean Penn is feuding with Lee Daniels; Diddy still reigns supreme and more

The panel of What's The 411 host Kizzy Cox and correspondents Courtney Rashon and Onika McLean are talking about:

 Prayers for rapper Fetty Wap, who was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident

The White House state dinner for the President of China

The Apollo Theater for the first time inducts non-musicians into its Walk of Fame; they are Richard Pryor; Jackie "Moms" Mabley; and Redd Foxx

Actor Sean Penn's feud with filmmaker Lee Daniels

Showrunner Shonda Rhimes is getting a larger slice of Hollywood

According to Forbes, Diddy still reigns supreme as hip-hop's cash king

Singer/actress Zendaya Coleman gets her own Barbie Doll that encourages girls to raise their voice

Actress Halle Berry has great comeback for critics

Businesswoman and former model, Tyra Banks, surprised teen fashion designer Kyemah McEntyre, who is a student at Parson's School of Design, when she wore one of Kyemah's designs on her FabLife television show.

First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama,  gets animated for Disney's Doc McStuffins

and more.

In Caribbean Cook-up, Kizzy Cox, reports that the U.S. track team would not drink Gatorade with track star Usain Bolt's picture on it.

Rapper Rich Homie Quan gets called On The Carpet for smoking what appears to be marijuana in the presence of his young son.

 

  • Published in Episodes

Award-winning Actress S. Epatha Merkerson

Actress S. Epatha Merkerson stars in an HBO film, Lackawanna Blues, a love story in a bygone era

This video clip is from an interview with the award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson that What's The 411TV correspondent, Diana Blain, conducted on the red carpet for the premiere of Lackawanna Blues, on a very cold winter evening in February. Ms. Merkerson is responding to a question where she reflects on a time period from a bygone era.

Ms. Merkerson won several awards for the role of Rachel "Nanny" Crosby, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.

Ms. Merkerson appeared in 391 episodes of the long-running NBC police procedural drama series Law & Order—more than any other cast member. Ms. Merkerson's character, as NYPD Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, is also the longest-running African-American character in the history of primetime television.

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