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MRHS Student film review: “Green Book”

By Delphine Surel-Chang, Grade 9

The movie “Green Book” recounts the story of Dr. Don Shirley, a world-renowned pianist who hires an Italian-American driver, Frank Anthony Vallelonga (whose long name was converted to Tony Lip for pronunciation purposes) for his trip to the Deep South in 1962 for a two month concert tour. The Negro Motorist Green Book was a travel guide for African-Americans that offered a list of places (hotels, motels, restaurants, etc.) where a black person would not be troubled. The simple existence of this book is unimaginable today. Tony, who switches between different brief jobs in the Bronx, is a tough “friend to the mob” and finds it strenuous to restrain himself from his peculiar habits. This story not only clearly depicts the grueling lives of African-Americans in the southern states who were discriminated against, but also how even a distinguished musician can be excluded from society just because of his ethnicity.

Don Shirley has two very unaccepted traits for that period; he’s black and he’s gay in the 1960’s. Throughout the story, he is humiliated and treated as a second class citizen, having committed no criminal felony of any sort. Tears and laughs mingle with each other while lighthearted Chuck Berry music plays in the background and violence erupts when you least expect it.

The viewer watches Tony’s opinion of African-Americans evolve: from the beginning when he throws away glasses from which two black workers drank, to the end when he prevents a family member from insulting his friend. Even though Don and Tony come from very different worlds, the men’s friendship and mutual respect for each other grows. Between learning how to properly eat fried chicken or compose a well-written letter, both of them discover new manners that make them laugh and bring them closer together. Tony’s anger builds as he watches the pianist be disrespected and mistreated time after time throughout their travels. Billionaires will invite him to their home and make him go to the restroom in a shack outside. “Green Book” is a heartwarming and heartbreaking movie that sends the audience back in time to a period of hidden brutality and upbeat rhythms at the same time. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali deserve the praise they have been given.