Green Book (2018) Review: A Touching Tale of Friendship and Understanding

Green Book
Green Book

Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly, is a captivating and heartwarming film set in the 1960s. Based on a true story, it explores the unlikely friendship between a working-class Italian-American bouncer named Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and an African-American classical pianist named Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). Nominated for and winning several prestigious awards, including the Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, Green Book masterfully tackles themes of racial prejudice, friendship, and personal transformation.

Plot and Characters:

The film begins with Tony Lip, a tough and street-smart bouncer, struggling to find employment after the nightclub where he works is closed for renovations. Desperate for a job, Tony accepts an offer to be Dr. Don Shirley’s driver and bodyguard during his concert tour in the racially segregated Deep South. Tony’s initial ignorance and prejudices make for an interesting dynamic with the refined and educated Dr. Shirley. The duo embarks on a journey filled with eye-opening experiences, challenges, and moments of profound connection.

The “Green Book”:

The film’s title refers to the Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide that provided African-American travelers with safe accommodations and restaurants during the era of Jim Crow laws. The Green Book serves as a metaphor for the stark reality of racial segregation and acts as a guidebook for Tony as he navigates the prejudiced South while protecting Dr. Shirley.

Themes of Prejudice and Discrimination:

Green Book fearlessly delves into the deeply ingrained racism of the 1960s. Through Tony’s character, the film confronts his own prejudices and stereotypes, gradually transforming him from a closed-minded individual into a compassionate ally. Dr. Shirley, on the other hand, faces the constant burden of being both African-American and talented in a society that values neither. The film exposes the brutal consequences of discrimination while illustrating the power of friendship in overcoming prejudice.

Chemistry and Performances:

The exceptional performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali elevate Green Book to new heights. Mortensen expertly portrays Tony Lip’s growth from a man driven by ignorance to someone who learns empathy and compassion. His portrayal is both comical and poignant, bringing a charismatic charm to the character. Ali delivers a mesmerizing performance as Dr. Don Shirley, capturing the character’s complexity with grace and subtlety. Their on-screen chemistry is palpable, adding depth and authenticity to their evolving friendship.

Humor and Heart:

Despite tackling serious subject matter, Green Book expertly balances moments of levity with emotional depth. The film utilizes humor to alleviate tension and provide a much-needed respite from the harsh realities faced by the characters. Tony’s larger-than-life personality and witty one-liners inject warmth and laughter into the narrative, making the film accessible and enjoyable for a wide range of audiences.

Direction and Cinematography:

Peter Farrelly, known for his work in comedy, demonstrates his versatility as a director in Green Book. He skillfully combines humor, drama, and social commentary, crafting a film that is both thought-provoking and entertaining. The cinematography beautifully captures the stark contrasts between the opulence of concert halls and the squalor of segregated establishments, emphasizing the stark divisions that existed during that era.


1. Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip: Mortensen portrays Tony Lip, a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver and bodyguard for Dr. Don Shirley. His performance earned him critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

2. Mahershala Ali as Dr. Don Shirley: Ali delivers a mesmerizing portrayal of Dr. Don Shirley, an African-American classical pianist embarking on a concert tour in the racially segregated Deep South. Ali won numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his nuanced performance.

3. Linda Cardellini as Dolores Vallelonga: Cardellini plays Tony Lip’s wife, Dolores. Her character provides a grounded and supportive presence in Tony’s life, and Cardellini delivers a heartfelt performance.


1. Peter Farrelly (Director, Writer, Producer): Known for his work in comedy, Farrelly takes on a more dramatic role in Green Book. He skillfully balances the film’s humor and social commentary, crafting a compelling narrative. Farrelly also co-wrote the screenplay and served as a producer.

2. Nick Vallelonga (Writer, Producer): Vallelonga, the real-life son of Tony Lip, co-wrote the screenplay based on his father’s experiences. He also served as a producer on the film, bringing a personal touch to the story.

3. Brian Currie (Writer): Currie collaborated with Vallelonga and Farrelly in penning the screenplay for Green Book. His contributions helped shape the film’s narrative and character development.

4. Octavia Spencer (Producer): An accomplished actress in her own right, Spencer served as a producer on Green Book. Her experience and expertise added valuable insight to the production.

5. Kris Bowers (Composer): Bowers composed the film’s musical score, which blends classical, jazz, and popular music. His work adds depth and emotion to the storytelling, enhancing the overall impact of the film.

6. Sean Porter (Cinematographer): Porter was responsible for capturing the visual aesthetics of Green Book. His cinematography skillfully juxtaposes the contrasting environments and enhances the emotional beats of the story.

7. Patrick J. Don Vito (Editor): Don Vito’s editing expertise helped shape the pacing and flow of the film. His work seamlessly weaves together the different elements of the story, ensuring a cohesive and engaging viewing experience.

The collaboration between the cast and crew of Green Book resulted in a film that resonated with audiences worldwide. Each member brought their unique talents and skills, contributing to the film’s success and critical acclaim. Their collective efforts brought to life the powerful story of friendship and personal growth, making Green Book a memorable cinematic experience.

Green Book (2018) achieved considerable success both critically and commercially. Here are the details regarding the film’s accomplishments:

1. Critical Acclaim:

Green Book garnered widespread critical acclaim, with praise directed towards its performances, storytelling, and thematic depth. The film received a score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on reviews from critics, and holds an audience score of 91%. Many reviews highlighted the chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, the powerful message of the film, and its ability to balance humor and serious social issues.

2. Awards and Recognition:

Green Book received numerous accolades, including several prestigious awards:

   a. Academy Awards (Oscars): The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Original Screenplay (Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly).

   b. Golden Globe Awards: Green Book won three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor – Musical or Comedy (Viggo Mortensen), and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali).

   c. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards: The film received the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, recognizing the ensemble cast’s exceptional work.

   d. BAFTA Awards: Green Book won the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Best Original Screenplay.

   e. Critics’ Choice Movie Awards: The film received the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali).

   These accolades reflect the film’s wide-ranging impact and recognition within the industry.

3. Box Office Success:

Green Book experienced significant success at the box office, surpassing expectations for an independent film. The film grossed over $322 million worldwide against a production budget of around $23 million. Its financial success further cemented its position as a noteworthy film and contributed to its longevity in theaters.

4. Cultural Impact:

Green Book made a significant cultural impact by generating discussions about racial prejudice, friendship, and personal growth. The film shed light on historical events and provided audiences with a renewed perspective on racial inequality. It sparked conversations about the importance of empathy, understanding, and the power of human connection. The themes and messages of the film resonated with viewers, fostering a broader societal dialogue.

5. Longevity and Legacy:

Green Book continues to be appreciated and discussed beyond its initial release. Its success propelled it to become a timeless and relevant film, frequently recommended as an essential viewing experience. It remains a testament to the power of storytelling and its ability to inspire change and foster understanding.

In conclusion, Green Book achieved significant success through critical acclaim, numerous awards, strong box office performance, and its lasting cultural impact. The film’s triumphs reaffirmed its status as an exceptional cinematic achievement, and its enduring legacy continues to inspire and resonate with audiences around the world.


Green Book (2018) had several interesting behind-the-scenes aspects that contributed to the making of the film. Here are some notable behind-the-scenes details:

1. Real-Life Inspiration:

Green Book is based on the true story of Tony Lip (Vallelonga’s father) and Dr. Don Shirley. The screenplay was co-written by Nick Vallelonga, the son of Tony Lip, who drew from his father’s experiences as a driver for Dr. Shirley during the 1960s. Having a personal connection to the story added an extra layer of authenticity and emotional depth to the film.

2. Peter Farrelly’s Transition to Drama:

Peter Farrelly, known for his comedic films such as There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber, took on the role of director for Green Book, marking a departure from his usual genre. The film showcased Farrelly’s ability to tackle serious subject matter with sensitivity and earned him critical acclaim for his direction.

3. Viggo Mortensen’s Physical Transformation:

Viggo Mortensen underwent a physical transformation to portray Tony Lip. He gained around 45 pounds for the role by consuming a diet of high-calorie foods, including pizzas and burgers. The weight gain helped Mortensen embody the character’s larger physique and added an extra layer of authenticity to his performance.

4. Mahershala Ali’s Musical Training:

Mahershala Ali, who played Dr. Don Shirley, is an accomplished actor, but he had limited experience playing the piano. To prepare for the role, Ali took intensive piano lessons for several months. With the guidance of pianist Kris Bowers, he learned to convincingly portray a skilled pianist on screen.

5. Locations and Historical Accuracy:

The film aimed for authenticity in its depiction of the racially segregated Deep South during the 1960s. Many of the locations used in the film, such as the various concert venues and motels, were the actual places where Tony Lip and Dr. Don Shirley had visited during their journey. This attention to detail helped recreate the historical context and added to the film’s realism.

6. Emotional On-Set Moments:

The production of Green Book was not without its emotional moments. Both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali have shared stories of the deep connection they formed on set, often moved to tears by the powerful scenes they were filming. Their shared commitment to the story and the characters created a strong bond between them, which translated into their on-screen chemistry.

7. Message of Unity and Acceptance:

Green Book’s production fostered a sense of unity and understanding among the cast and crew. The film’s message of breaking down barriers and embracing differences resonated with those involved in its making. The collaborative atmosphere behind the scenes contributed to the film’s success in delivering its powerful message.

These behind-the-scenes aspects highlight the dedication of the cast and crew, the commitment to authenticity, and the emotional impact that the film had on those involved. The combination of personal connections, physical transformations, and the pursuit of historical accuracy all played a role in creating the remarkable film that is Green Book.

Green Book (2018) features memorable songs and scenes that have left a lasting impact on audiences. Here are some of the hit songs, unforgettable scenes, and notable dialogues from the film:

Hit Songs:

1. “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles: This iconic Ray Charles track is prominently featured in the film, capturing the energetic and soulful atmosphere of the era.

2. “Lullaby of Birdland” by Sarah Vaughan: Sarah Vaughan’s enchanting jazz rendition of “Lullaby of Birdland” adds a touch of elegance to the film, highlighting the musical talents of Dr. Don Shirley.

3. “Water Boy” by Don Shirley: Dr. Don Shirley’s powerful rendition of “Water Boy” showcases Mahershala Ali’s vocal talents and serves as a pivotal moment of emotional intensity in the film.

Unforgettable Scenes:

1. The Fried Chicken Scene: One of the most memorable and often-discussed scenes is when Tony Lip introduces Dr. Shirley to the taste of fried chicken. It becomes a significant moment of cultural exchange and challenges Tony’s preconceived notions about Dr. Shirley’s lifestyle.

2. The Carnegie Hall Performance: The climactic scene of the film features Dr. Shirley’s triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall. This powerful and emotional moment symbolizes the culmination of his journey and the breaking of racial barriers.

3. The Police Encounter: In a tense and emotionally charged scene, Tony Lip protects Dr. Shirley from an incident with racist police officers. This scene showcases Tony’s transformation and his willingness to stand up against injustice.

Notable Dialogues:

1. Tony Lip: “The world’s full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”

2. Dr. Don Shirley: “You never win with violence. You only win when you maintain your dignity.”

3. Tony Lip: “You know, my father used to say, whatever you do, do it 100%. When you work, work. When you laugh, laugh. When you eat, eat like it’s your last meal.”

4. Dr. Don Shirley: “You never win an argument with a racist. They’re like a pig. They love to get dirty, and the only one who’s gonna get dirty is the pig.”

These dialogues capture the essence of the film’s themes of friendship, overcoming prejudice, and personal growth. They are poignant and thought-provoking, encapsulating the lessons and messages conveyed throughout Green Book.

The hit songs, unforgettable scenes, and notable dialogues all contribute to the film’s enduring impact and resonance with audiences. Green Book’s ability to evoke emotions, challenge perceptions, and inspire change is reflected in these moments that have become ingrained in the collective memory of viewers.

Green Book (2018) is a film that concludes with a powerful and thought-provoking message about the transformative power of friendship, empathy, and understanding. Through the journey of Tony Lip and Dr. Don Shirley, the film explores the complexities of racial prejudice, personal growth, and the potential for change.

As the narrative unfolds, Tony Lip, a working-class Italian-American bouncer, is hired as the driver and bodyguard for Dr. Don Shirley, an African-American classical pianist embarking on a concert tour in the racially segregated Deep South of the 1960s. Initially, Tony harbors prejudiced beliefs, perpetuating stereotypes and demonstrating ignorance towards the experiences of African-Americans. However, his time spent with Dr. Shirley challenges these preconceptions and forces him to confront his own biases.

Through their shared experiences and the challenges they encounter, a genuine friendship begins to form between Tony and Dr. Shirley. They learn from one another, breaking down barriers and gradually developing a deep mutual respect. Tony’s journey of personal growth is marked by his gradual transformation from someone who holds racial prejudices to someone who recognizes the common humanity in all individuals.

One of the key turning points in the film is when Tony Lip introduces Dr. Shirley to the taste of fried chicken. In this scene, Tony is initially surprised by Dr. Shirley’s lack of familiarity with the dish, highlighting the stark cultural divide between them. However, this moment becomes an important catalyst for their friendship, as Tony realizes the need to bridge that divide and challenge his own assumptions. It serves as a symbolic act of cultural exchange and acceptance.

Another significant scene occurs when Tony Lip protects Dr. Shirley from a confrontation with racist police officers. Tony, who once held prejudiced views, now steps up to defend his friend, embodying the growth and transformation he has undergone throughout their journey. This scene showcases Tony’s newfound empathy and courage in the face of injustice.

The film’s climax takes place at Carnegie Hall, where Dr. Shirley delivers a powerful and triumphant performance. This moment represents the culmination of Dr. Shirley’s personal and artistic journey, as well as the breaking of racial barriers. It is a poignant celebration of his talent and resilience, and a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of adversity.

Green Book concludes with Tony Lip dropping off Dr. Shirley at his luxurious home after their tour. They bid each other farewell, knowing that their lives have been forever changed by their shared experiences. The final moments of the film depict Tony returning home to his family, where he discovers a gift from Dr. Shirley—a set of jazz records. This gift symbolizes their enduring bond and the profound impact they have had on each other’s lives.

In its deep and detailed conclusion, Green Book ultimately conveys a message of unity, understanding, and the potential for personal growth. The film emphasizes the importance of breaking down barriers, challenging prejudices, and embracing our shared humanity. It serves as a reminder that genuine connections can be formed even in the most unlikely circumstances and that empathy and understanding can lead to transformative change.

By highlighting the historical context of racial inequality in the United States, Green Book sparks conversations about the progress made and the work that still needs to be done in achieving true equality and acceptance. It encourages viewers to confront their own biases, examine the impact of their actions, and strive for a more inclusive and empathetic society.

In conclusion, Green Book is a profound and impactful film that concludes with a powerful message of friendship, personal growth, and the potential for change. Through its compelling narrative and exceptional performances, the film leaves a lasting impression, reminding us of the importance of breaking down barriers, embracing diversity, and fostering understanding in our shared journey towards a more inclusive and compassionate world.


Green Book is a remarkable film that leaves a lasting impact on its viewers. It showcases the importance of empathy, understanding, and friendship in overcoming prejudice and racism. The powerful performances by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, coupled with Peter Farrelly’s deft direction, make Green Book a must-watch for its poignant storytelling, memorable characters, and timeless themes. By exposing the deep-rooted racism of the past, the film serves as a reminder of the progress made and the work that still needs to be done in achieving true equality and acceptance.

Green Book’s success lies in its ability to strike a delicate balance between entertainment and social commentary. It addresses weighty subjects without sacrificing its emotional impact or resorting to heavy-handed moralizing. Instead, it relies on the genuine chemistry between the two leads and their nuanced performances to create a compelling narrative that resonates with audiences.

One of the film’s strengths is its exploration of the complexities of friendship. Tony and Dr. Shirley come from different worlds, with vastly different backgrounds, but their shared experiences and the challenges they face during their journey create a bond that transcends race and class. Their friendship blossoms through shared laughter, shared hardships, and a mutual understanding that grows over time. Green Book teaches us that genuine connections can be formed even in the most unlikely circumstances.

The film’s attention to detail is also commendable. The production design, costumes, and music transport viewers back to the 1960s, capturing the essence of the era and immersing us in the social and cultural context of the time. The soundtrack, featuring a blend of classical, jazz, and popular music, further enhances the emotional impact of the story, heightening moments of tension and triumph.

While Green Book received critical acclaim and numerous awards, it also faced some criticism. Some argued that the film oversimplified the issues of racism and relied on a white savior narrative, with Tony Lip’s character taking center stage while Dr. Shirley’s experiences were somewhat sidelined. These concerns raise valid points, as the narrative does primarily focus on Tony’s personal growth and transformation. However, it is important to recognize that Green Book does not seek to provide a comprehensive examination of racial inequality but rather tells a specific story of friendship and personal change within that context.

In conclusion, Green Book is a poignant and compelling film that tackles themes of prejudice, friendship, and personal growth. Through its exceptional performances, masterful direction, and a well-crafted narrative, it successfully delivers a powerful message about empathy, understanding, and the potential for change. While it may not delve deeply into the complexities of racism, it serves as a stepping stone for discussions about the need for unity and acceptance in a world still grappling with prejudice. Green Book is a testament to the transformative power of human connection and stands as a reminder of the importance of breaking down barriers and embracing our shared humanity.

Green Book (2018) is a film that boasts a talented cast and crew who contributed to its success. Here is an overview of the key individuals involved in the making of the movie:

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