The Elgin theatre audience exploded in cheers and whoo-whoo applause when a showing of Peter Farrelly’s Green Book (Universal, 11.21) ended late Tuesday night. I’m not talking about expressions of warmth and respect — I’m talking about instant kapow, instant “yes!” No other Toronto Film Festival screening I’ve attended has generated this kind of love, alpha vibes and excitement.
A racially stamped, early ’60s version of Planes, Trains & Automobiles blended with a little Driving Miss Daisy and fortified by a shrewd, plain-spoken, nicely-honed screenplay (by Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga) that touches solid bottom in a few ways, Green Book is a huge hit waiting to happen and a definite Best Picture nominee…hands down, don’t even think about it, Tom O’Neil is going to have kittens.
A heartwarmer about the various shades and permutations of American racism coursing through the body politic back in the Kennedy era, Green Book is not the contradiction it sounds like but the most satisfying feel-good movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Is it anywhere close to daring or nervy? Nope — it’s a nice, safe, entertaining middle-class dramedy, tidy and affecting and right out of the big-studio handbook, but man, it really hits the spot. I’m talking about a moviegoing experience that goes down like a nice creamy milk shake.
You can call me a square or a sap for succumbing to a film of this sort, a liberal-minded social-issue dramedy that could’ve easily been made 20 or 30 years ago, but you should’ve heard that audience go nuts when the closing credits began. I mean, it was like thunderbolt and lightning.
Universal has a real problem on its hands with Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson equally deserving Best Actor nominations; I really can’t decide who has a better shot. Okay, maybe Viggo because his character undergoes a greater amount of character growth and self-realization, but Mahershala delivers such a magnificent combination of dignity, buried pain, musical spirit and uptight rectitude.
At least there’ll be no hemming or hawing about Linda Cardellini, who’s a near shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actress nom as Viggo’s stay-at-home Italian wife. Plus you’d have to nominate the screenplay in the Best Original category, and Farrelly for Best Director along with Best Picture.
I’m not saying Green Book is a better film than Roma or First Man or Can You Ever Forgive Me? or Widows or First Reformed, but it makes you feel better than all of these films combined. I’m sorry but it does.
I’m going to bed but I’ll elaborate tomorrow morning sometime.