WHAT I LIKED: There has been a fair amount of criticism about Peter Farrelly's 'Green Book' floating about (particularly after it won best-picture against more 'hard-line' alternative choices) and most of that centres around the idea that the film's message is that "racism is bad" and that we should all be amazed by how progressive it is and the white audience should thus come away enlightened. That's not the case at all though, because what Green Book really does by looking to the past and putting a racist under the service of a black man is to properly examine where intolerance comes from only to objectively highlight how absurd it is by having that central character learn some real love and compassion. Is that the film teaching us a lesson? No, it's the film exploring some important thematic ideas - including the objective realities of intolerance (a rare thing in a landscape dominated by black-and-white thinking), and building a charming character-narrative around that.
That's a recipe for a great film, but it's especially successful in the end because of how well both the ignorant driver (Tony Lip) and his employer (Don Shirley) are built by the script and their respective performers. Viggo Mortensen doesn't shy away from portraying Tony's uncomfortable bigotry whilst equally building that unlocking of compassion perfectly, but ultimately it's the way that Mahershala Ali plays Don Shirley as such a conserved but ultimately tortured and down-trodden victim of his social expectations that builds the thematic narrative so well. You really feel for him whilst Tony begins to, and the few moments where his exterior cracks under the pressure of the surrounding world are properly touching thanks to the masterful nuance of Ali's performance.
But as if the fact that this film is a thoroughly touching thematic character study wasn't enough already, Green Book also ticks another box by being extremely funny. Yes it really will have you laughing out loud if you're anything like me, as the dynamic between the pair makes for something naturally amusing and the script takes full advantage of that with numerous gags and endearing moments. So that makes this a properly fun trip to the cinema that's also extremely poignant and touching... frankly it's hard to ask more of a movie than that. It's no bad choice for best picture this then, and in my eyes it's an absolutely brilliant film from start to finish.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Sure there are more profound films out there on a thematic level, but it's important not to let the fact that this is a comedic movie reduce its perceived integrity as an effective drama. The only real complaint here is actually that Don Shirley's piano playing doesn't always look that realistic...
VERDICT: A touching drama that's not about pushing an obvious message but is instead about exploring intolerance through a brilliant character narrative, 'Green Book,' is touching, poignant and genuinely funny. You can't ask much more of a movie than that really, can you?