Green Book is a must go

My wife, daughter and I saw the movie “Green Book” yesterday. The movie is based on the true story of an African-American concert pianist named Dr. Don Shirley who is shepherded around the Midwest and South in 1962 by an Italian-American named Tony (Lip) Vallelonga.

The movie exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to others. The title is based on the green book written for African-American travelers to navigate the Jim Crow south. It stars Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Lindi Cardelina plays an important role as Tony’s wife Dolores.

The movie was written by Tony and Dolores’ son Nick, so it is a third person retelling of the story. There are several poignant scenes that will endear you and frustrate you as the two travelers form a bond. In a separate car, two other members of the Don Shirley trio meet Shirley at the various events. They are white musicians, but provide context to why Shirley feels obligated to put himself at risk.

Rather than spoil the plot, let me end with the lead actors do justice to these two very different men. You become a part of their journey and worry about Shirley’s safety and hope Vallelonga does not add gasoline to a fire. Jim Crow was an ugly time in America and as one Southern law enforcement officer explained, Shirley was guilty of being Black in the South more so than any crime he may have committed.

Please go see it and take younger folks with you. Tony will utter a few bad words, but you will at least see him corrected by Shirley, which makes up for them. It is important to reveal the injustice that people who look like Shirley faced.

15 thoughts on “Green Book is a must go

  1. Note to Readers: To get a disheartening perspective on the Jim Crow South, listen to Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” This offers a context of how much courage Don Shirley had to perform down South.

  2. I heard a speech on the Green Book in a National Speech and Debate competition a few years ago. I had never heard of it. I will definitely have to go see the movie. Thanks for the review!

    • Hugh, after $27 of tickets and $28 for popcorn and drinks, I understand the economic part of that practice. Do check it out when it comes to the smaller screen. Keith

  3. This sounds like a really good movie which opens the eyes about society – back then and still today! Shirley’s story may also stand for other people or situations when pre-justice and injustice take place. The “crime” of being black, poor, homeless, ill,… Thank you very much for sharing, Keith. I will keep in mind to watch it.

      • Erika, absolutely true. Populism has turned into blame people who don’t look or worship like you do. Those actions have bastardized what sounds like reasonable position. Selling ideas on fear is not good policy. Keith

      • Nope, not at all! Thank God, people are more likely to think themselves instead of just doing what politicians say. The awareness is here and that is the reason for the movie, your wonderful post, and the comments! Let’s keep it up!!

  4. Dear Keith,

    It is in my life time that I observed the Jim Crow attitudes in the south. As a military brat, for a short time lived in Columbus, Georgia. The separate bathrooms and the separate water fountains made an impression on me.

    I can remember neighbors saying that the local schools would never be integrated.

    I once remember missing my school bus to where I was walking to school in the rain. A black older gentleman offered me a ride which I gratefully took but he had to apologize that he couldn’t drop me off nearer the school entrance.

    I can’t wait to see this movie. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, seeing the Jim Crow maltreatment first hand burns it into your memory. I was in junior high when court ordered busing occurred. My guess is the school leaders did an great job to qualm fears and my final four years of El-Hi school were without incidence. Other places were not so fortunate as fears festered.

      This movie predates the Civil Righrs Act and Voters Rights Act. So, it still recognizes Jim Crow. Keith

  5. I went to this film with expectations of finding it inferior. I’d heard quite a bit of hype about it and apparently, some viewers felt that it glorified Vallelonga when it should have been hammering on the implications of the Green Book and southern bigotry. I came away disagreeing with those comments. Of course, I live in a white skin, so my perspective is perhaps less sensitive than if I had black or brown skin. But for a first foray into exploring the Green Book phenomenon, which many white Americans have never even heard of before, I thought it succeeded in educating all of us. There is bigotry everywhere. There always will be. But it is how we recognize and fight the effects of that bigotry that is most important.

    I thought the acting was stupendous and the twist about Shirley’s personal life surprised me and enhanced my understanding of the man’s utter loneliness.

    • Linda, you said this well. I think the criticism is due to the story being told by Tony Lip’s persective through his son. But, the story introduces white people to a world we did and do not understand and focuses on the bond the two build. You are right about how lonely it must have Beth for Shirley with his color, music tastes and sexual orientation. Keith

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