by Mailani McKelvy
The movie Green Book proved to be a deeply emotional watch that stuck with me, even after leaving the theater. The plot followed an African-American classical pianist, named Dr. Don Shirley, on a tour in the Deep South with his outspoken Italian driver in the early 1960s. The movie explores different stereotypes versus the reality of the situation, and how different labels could be sorely inaccurate, especially given the racism of the time.
From start to finish, I was struck with how deeply rooted in the culture the stereotypes of each race was portrayed, and how normal it seemed to everyone around them. Though Dr. Shirley was allowed to play music at each venue, it becomes more and more apparent that he is the ‘odd man out’ for no good reason whatsoever. It definitely was a chilling glimpse into a deeply segregated society and a very real part of our nation’s history.
The movie, though deep in some of its messages and themes found most of its success in its comedic tone that drew out some laughter from the audience. The humor was mostly based on the unlikely friendship forming between the blunt driver named Tony Lip and the clashing eloquence of Dr. Don Shirley. Each ‘comedic’ moment was paired with a deeper underlying message about the time period, which I found very impactful.
The two had to overcome various obstacles throughout the tour- from segregated bathrooms in hotels to racist police forces. Throughout the story, Tony (the relatively ignorant driver) is forced to reevaluate how accurate these stereotypes are as he gets to know Dr. Shirley better, and as they travel further into less accepting areas following the suggestions from a guidebook called the ‘Green Book’ that lists the hotels/restaurants that you could attend if you were black.
It was interesting to witness the character Tony Lip -who quite literally sees things in ‘black and white’ and tends to believe almost every stereotype that he’s come across- develop into someone who understands that things are not always as they seem. The estrangement of Dr. Don Shirley from both white and black culture also proved to be a powerful idea in the film- one of his most powerful lines being, “If I’m not black enough, and I’m not white enough, and I’m not man enough- tell me Tony, what am I?”
Overall, the movie was definitely a thought-provoking watch that is definitely worth your 2 hours. It’s definitely the right choice if you are looking for something with a powerful message, but also a good laugh.