In recent years people have had easy access to news about racism such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Asian Hate.” It shows us that racism still exists as social problems and it is a problem for mankind to solve. The movie Green Book shows the seriousness of black racism, and it may give an answer to the audience as to what attitude it should have in modern times where racism exists.
The Green Book is a film of comedy drama genre released in 2018 by director Peter Farrelly. This is Peter Farrelly’s first time about the profound subject of racism in the comedy drama genre. Originally, he made gross-out comedy movies such as Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary. His new movie won the Academy for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay in 2019. In addition, it was recognized for its cinematic quality by winning more and various awards at famous film festivals.
The title, Green Book is a guidebook that contains information on accommodations and restaurants available to black travelers. In the 1930s, guidebooks became popular as more people traveled far with the development of cars. However, a universal guidebook provided information only for white people. If black drivers use the universal guide, they would be frequently subjected to racism. Especially, in the southern part of the United States, black racism was severe because black slaves were mainly put when growing tobacco and cotton. The Green Book was made for blacks who needed a guidebook that showed them where they could enter and how to be careful in each region.
In this movie, Toby Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is also handed over the Green Book as Don Shelley’s (Mahershala Ali)chauffeur travels to the southern part of the country. They are the main characters of the movie. Shelley is a genius black pianist and Tony Vallelonga is an Italian immigrant and club guard. The meeting begins when Tony undergoes an interview to work for the chauffeur of Shirley, in the United States in 1962, when black racism was severe. Shirley, who has a reputation for being asked to perform across the U.S., decides to go on a tour of the southern part of the U.S. which is rumored to be dangerous for black people. During the tour, Tony is hired as his bodyguard and driver.
Don Shelley is often discriminated against in movies, such as he restricted from entering toilets and restaurants because he is black. Tony also discriminates against black people in the beginning of the movie. He ignored the blacks who came to his house to repair the sink and threw the glass cups he used to serve them right into the trash can. This racist scene is offensive to the audience, showing that racism was serious in the United States in the 1960s. I could also feel the loneliness of a person who is discriminated against, and the atmosphere of racism in the United States at that time while I watched this movie.
This movie also shows how to overcome being discriminated against. When Tony and Shelley travel together and share experiences through communication, the audience can see racism is overcome. The typical scene is when Shelley teaching Tony. Tony often writes letters to his wife far away, but his writing skills are poor. While the cultured person Shelley looking at Tony’s poor writing skills, He teaches Tony how to write a letter that touches his wife. In this process, they help each other, and they more get to know each other. The audience might feel warmth through these scenes and feel that racism improves through relationships.
The actors vividly show the movie's contents based on these real stories. Viggo Mortensen actually visited Tony Vallelonga's bereaved family to learn Tony's speech and behavior. Also, he gained 18 kilograms to fit Tony's role. "Viggo Mortensen's habit and the way he smokes are so much like Tony that I sometimes get goosebumps, and even the way he sits." said Tony's son Nick Vallelonga, who plays the screenplay for the movie, at interview with JTBC Entertainment. Vigo Mortensen is also famous for playing Aragon in the movie The Lord of the Rings. Also, Mahershala Ali is a well-known movie actor for playing Juan in Moonlight in 2017. He won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the 91st Academy Awards in 2019 for playing Don Shelley in Green Book.
However, it is necessary to criticize whether the characters' descriptions are based on true stories without distortion. In fact, even though the film was set in a true story, Shelley's bereaved families criticized and protested that the main characters were portrayed inaccurately and falsely in the film. Shelley's bereaved family said that Shirley and Tony were hired and were not friends, and that some scenes in the film were different from the reality. Considering this, if people look at the main characters in the movie, they might wonder if the movie deserved a various award.
Despite the controversy over the distortion of the main characters' descriptions, the film gives the audience a positive impression when racism was disappears. The movie shows how the friendship between the two main characters, who have opposite personalities and different races, undergoes psychological changes during the tour. Also, the film makes the audience angry by vividly showing racism at that time, but also makes the audience warm by seeing scenes that overcome it. It may be a meaningful movie to people who want to think deeply about racism in the present time when there is a lot of racism.