Plot: What’s it about?
Green Book turned out to be one of my favorite films of 2018. I figured I’d like it from the trailers, but not quite as much as I did. A large part of its success is the great performances by both of the leads, but especially Viggo Mortensen. The performances from both men in the lead are strong, but Mortensen’s is the more flashy of the two roles.
Mortensen plays Frank Vallelonga, better known as Tony Lip. He works at a club as a bouncer, but it’s being closed for a couple of months for renovations. One of the odd ways he thinks of to earn money is beating a chubby local man in a hotdog eating contest. Obviously, this isn’t a reliable enough means for money. He learns that a man who is a musical talent named Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) needs a chauffeur. The task would be relatively straightforward in that Tony would simply get Dr. Shirley to his concert shows on time, all this would total 2 months. Tony initially turns down the offer, insisting that he’s no chauffeur, but we all know that he will eventually agree to it. Tony meets the Recording label PR people and he’s given a Green Book, which is essentially all the restaurants and hotels that are accepting of a black man staying there. The film is set in the 1960’s so the racial tension is high, and we see quite a bit of that in the film. The central story of these two men entering each other’s lives and how they change them is quite a powerful one. The film has a lot of heart, a lot of comedy and even sad moments when we see what Dr. Shirley has to go through. He’s able to play music in places, but not able to eat or dine there. The film moves along at a nice clip and has some touching moments whether it’s when Tony stands up for Dr. Shirley or when Dr. Shirley helps Tony write letters back home to his wife. It’s an easy film to like.
After a second viewing, Green Book continued to entertain me, though its flaws were a tad more apparent. We see a lot of racism and hostility, that the film’s basic setup can feel repetitive at times. I was less bothered (though that word is harsh) the first time I saw it, but a second viewing did heighten it. Even with that minor quibble, it’s hard to say anything should’ve been cut from the film as it does flow quite nicely. Both of the leads own their roles, with Mortensen getting every last detail down to even his gestures. A lesser actor might’ve felt more like a distraction, but not here. I was surprised at first to see that Peter Farrelly was the director since he and his brother Bobby often do comedies together. It’s a fine film that’s not only worth seeing, but also one of 2018’s better films. I appreciated that it doesn’t try to do too much. It’s a pretty simple and basic story, but set in a difficult and much more divisive time. I found that element intriguing. I like that it doesn’t try to throw any unnecessary melodrama or heavy subplots at us. It really is the simple story of a man driving another man to earn some extra income. You could look at it as Driving Miss Daisy in reverse.
Video: How’s it look?
Universal presents Green Book in a somewhat odd aspect ratio of 2:00:1. The HEVC 4K image is stunning throughout and after doing a few comparisons between the 4K disc and it’s Blu-ray counterpart (also included in this set), a few scenes do really stand out. We know that the HDR of the 4K disc will produce blacker blacks and a more contrasty picture – this is true. I also felt that the 4K version seemed a bit more “film like”. I realize that sounds odd, and perhaps it was a placebo effect. Regardless whatever version you choose, know that this is one stunning-looking visual presentation.
Audio: How’s it sound?
At the heart of the film is music and, as such, we can expect the Dolby Atmos soundtrack found on the 4K disc to deliver. It does. I’ve always loved the way jazz sounds on movies and perhaps that’s why I love Whiplash so much (that and it’s a great film). The music seems to resonate across each and every one of your Atmos-enabled channels. Vocals, not to be outdone, sound rich, pure and crisp offering a range from the male leads. The rest of the film has more of a standard range for a film of this nature, but this Atmos track really does deliver on all accounts. And, I’m happy to report, Universal is one of the studios that doesn’t cheat their Blu-ray out of a next generation audio mix as it too contains the same Atmos mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Virtuoso Performances – We get a look at the two lead actors, their characters and a few sound bites from them describing their roles. Pretty standard stuff.
- An Unforgettable Friendship – Admittedly a lot of information is squeezed into this five minute piece. We get an interview with Tony’s son as well as the role of music in the film as well as a few other interesting tidbits.
- Going Beyond the Green Book – If you, like me, had no idea what the actual “green book” was – this will educate you.
The Bottom Line
With two fine lead performances and a strong, simple, yet effective story, Green Book is well worth checking out. It has humor, drama and plenty of heart.