Green Book (2018). I had heard about the film from the annual Oscar awards. It won three: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. I knew the Green Book was a publication to help black people negotiate their way through the southern states, which still had hotels, restaurants, and clubs that where forbidden to black people in the early sixties. I found the movie via Showtime in the comedy section.
Watch the trailer for Green Book – imdb.com/title/tt6966692/mediaviewer/rm2429772288
Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a sometimes waiter, sometimes bouncer, and sometimes fixer at the Copacabana (THE place for entertainment in the fifties and early sixties) in New York. Mortensen has aged a bit and gotten a little thicker than when he played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but he was perfect in the part. The movie begins with Bobby Rydell singing with the stage band in a definite Italian-run New York City nightclub. We see tips being exchanged and “solids” being performed as needed. When the “Copa” closes for two months in retribution for a lost hat, Tony is offered a job driving and assisting pianist Don Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali, on a tour of the mid-west and deep south. Tony is rough and tumble practical. Shirley is refined, well-schooled and well-mannered.
Dr. Shirley tries to change Tony, while Tony tries to change Dr. Shirley. They both succeed. The movie is based on a true story.
Green Book is both a buddy film and a road trip film. A road trip involves new understandings, learning, and changing. Both characters are set in their ways and resolute in their day to day interactions with both just begging to have their corners rounded.
My favorite scene, or rather one of my many favorite scenes, feature’s Tony’s joy at being able to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken in KENTUCKY. His wants are simple. Much of the film involves back and forth banter from Tony’s driving position in the front seat, and Don’s back seat choice directly behind Tony, who constantly has his eyes off the road as he talks with Don. Tony buys a bucket of KFC and eats pieces in his hand while he drives and then insists that Don try a piece. Dr. Shirley is fastidious and doesn’t want greasy hands soiling his lap blanket. Soon they are both eating chicken and tossing the bones out the window. Tony never refers to Dr. Shirley as Don.
My favorite line from The Green Book: “Because it takes courage to change people’s hearts.”
The Green Book is “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook for African-American travelers. Tony is given a copy of the Green Book to find places where Dr. Shirley can stay over-night or dine while in the deep south. Tony is not pleased with the accommodations.
I saw the film only a few days after producing seven videos within thirty days for the Chinese Reconciliation Park Foundation annual Moon Festival. Because of COVID, the moon festival went virtual this year. The welcoming video featured board president and past recipient of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, Theresa Pan Hosley. I love her vision and her enthusiasm, but mostly I love her laughter and how she works for our community. In her welcoming video she thanks the many people who have made the event and the park a success.
Theresa Pan Hosley welcomes everyone to the Moon Festival.
“I hope that we can all take the time to reflect on what reconciliation can mean in various parts of our world and use empathy to realize that our differences are what makes us all similar.”
The park commemorates the 1885 expulsion of our Chinese citizens from Tacoma, so we can recognize the significance of the event and learn from the hatred and fear that caused it. This is something to accomplish. We need to stand up for our rights and the rights of others. Life is a road trip and we have much to learn. It’s a tough job sometimes “. . . it takes courage to change people’s hearts.”