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Blu-ray Review: Green Book

March 11, 2019

By John Corrado

Two weeks ago, Green Book was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, as well as trophies for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, and now the film is arriving on Blu-ray just in time to capitalize on this success.

Based on a true story, the film follows working class Italian bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), who is hired to drive African-American pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, in an Oscar-winning role) across the segregated Deep South in the 1960s. Their drastically different backgrounds cause the men to initially clash, before developing a close friendship with each other.

The film works as an entertaining crowdpleaser, and even picked up the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, which first cemented its status as an awards season frontrunner. I’ve been a fan of the film since I saw it at the festival, but Green Book has also garnered a fair amount of controversy since its release, including complaints from the surviving members of Dr. Shirley’s family that they weren’t consulted on the screenplay.

Dr. Shirley’s brother called the film a “symphony of lies,” and even claimed that Tony and him didn’t actually remain friends following the tour, but old audio interviews with them have challenged many of these claims, and largely back up the version of events that are depicted in the film. Dr. Shirley had also given Vallelonga’s family his blessing to make a film about his life, but only requested that that they wait until after he passed away, which happened in 2013.

Mortensen attracted criticism of his own when he used the N-word during a Q&A, which he said in the context of discussing the prevalence of the word at the time when the film is set, but it was misguided for him to actually say it. Director Peter Farrelly’s not great track record of inappropriate conduct on past sets also recently came back into the spotlight, as did an old tweet by co-writer Nic Vallelonga backing up Donald Trump’s controversial claim that Muslims in New Jersey were seen cheering on 9/11.

Furthermore, the film has also been criticized by some for offering an overly simplistic look at racial relations, and for having a “white saviour” narrative, mainly because of the fact that it casts the white driver as the main character. Finally, in response to these controversies, Spike Lee reportedly tried to storm out of the Oscars when Green Book was announced as the Best Picture winner, beating out his own film BlacKkKlansman. So yes, there is a larger conversation around Green Book that should take place, regardless of what you think about the film itself, especially now that it is an Oscar winner.

But as a piece of finely crafted entertainment that nicely balances comedy and drama with deeper social messages underneath, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and often genuinely touching film that is carried by excellent performances from Mortensen and Ali, who are a dream team together. It’s absolutely worth seeing, and for more on the film itself, you can read my full review right here.

The Blu-ray also includes the three short but worthwhile featurettes Virtuoso Performances, An Unforgettable Friendship, and Going Beyond the Green Book.

Green Book is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 130 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 12th, 2019

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