It’s a few days that it’s out, but everybody’s talking about it. Many people think that it may be this year’s Oscar winner (for whom it has already 5 nominations, like the ones for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor). Green Book is the new film by Peter Farrelly – with three times Academy Award nominated Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award winner Mahersala Ali – and it’s definitely the trend of this season – so hot to even shade the long-waited Suspiria by Luca Guadagnino.

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It’s 1962. Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen, who followed the lead of colleague Christian Bale and gobbled down a lot of Big Macs to earn weight for this role) is an Italian-American bodyguard full of prejudices and hate and, clearly, a racist –as any perfect Italian-American dude in the Sixties. But he’s also broke and needs a job to maintain his wife and children. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a well-dressed and refined Afro-American jazz musician, needs a driver to carry him through the desolated lands of USA during his two-month tour. Les jeux sont faits: Tony is the perfect chauffeur. So, as it happened in Driving Miss Daisy (but with the white one on the drive and the black passenger sitting in the back), these two unlikely traveling companions begin a road trip that leads them through the forgotten and driest corners of the United States of America – which have never been famous for their inclination to tolerance and integration (just read any report news of contemporary history).

America! // The international Jekyll and Hyde
The land of a thousand disguises // Sneaks up on you but rarely surprises

(H2O Gate Blues, by Gil Scott-Heron)

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Instead, the film takes its title from a famous book: The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green (1936-1966), literally a guide to all the places in the United States where African-Americans could rest without the risk of being marginalized for the color of their skin. That’s precisely what happens to Don Shirley: he plays in his tuxedo for the richest families in America, smiles back when they cheer him, but he can’t use their bathrooms. He can’t eat in their restaurants, nor sleep in their hotels. And Gil Scott-Heron used to say: “The way you get to know yourself is by the expressions on other people's faces”. So, even Don Shirley has always time for a laugh on his cold-hearted face …and luckily there’s Tony: he may not be the smartest guy in town, but certainly is a good person and most of all a good friend, the one who breaks the walls and destroy any bar of prejudice.

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To put it simply: gotta have roots before branches. And Green Book’s goal is to have very solid roots in the cultural background of America. Especially in Hollywood, where the issue about ethnic inequality is on the page since many years before the Time’s Up movement, or the Oscars won by 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen (2014) and Moonlight by Barry Jenkins (2017). How can we forget the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign on Twitter? Fortunately (but lately…) the Academy is doing its best to shift towards inclusion and integration, especially for black people (the 30% of the members that can vote today has been welcomed just in the past two or three years). And so is doing the entire entertainment business. Just think of some of last year’s biggest films: BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee, Black Panther by Ryan Coogler, If Beale Street Could Talk by Barry Jenkins, Widows by Steve McQueen, Sorry To Bother You by Boots Riley…Black culture is well-alive and all of the lights are finally on it.

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So, it’s not so hard to guess why Green Book is the perfect candidate to win this year’s Oscar (at least, from a political point of view). The film has already won some of the most precious awards, like 3 Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor and Best Screenplay); Best Film and Best Actor for Viggo Mortensen at the 2018 National Board of Review Awards; and it’s been selected among the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute. As if it wasn’t enough, the movie is inspired by a true story and the writer, Nick Vallelonga, is nothing less than the son of that Tony Lip Vallelonga (while Don Shirley’s family defined the film as a “symphony of lies”). On the other side, the two actors could have never been picked up better: Viggo Mortensen (long live Aragorn!) deserves an award since his role in Eastern Promises by David Cronenberg (2007), and Mahershala Ali is a grown-up star too: he’s the lead in the third season of True Detective and an Academy Award winner in 2017 for his performance in Moonlight.

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The biggest complaint is that the film has been directed by a white director, the head behind some of the most hilarious comedies of our century (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber): that’s why many critics claim that this film is narrated by a white-savior perspective, suggesting that Don Shirley has been painted as a “gentle” black man who pleases the white supremacy (and that sadly reminds us of the O.J. Simpson case). But… is it true? The director says no. Even some of the producers (as Octavia Spencer) deny it. But most of all: is this controversy enough to shade the social matter of the film? When all is said and done, Green Book it’s terrific.
It’s a road movie that manages to go over the race-card itself, and that’s pretty cool. And nobody can deny that this time somewhere in the past frighteningly speaks for our present. In a cultural landscape that has lost its willing to dare, Green Book does not dare – and certainly will not make a difference. Maybe it’s just a perfect movie: a home-made test that deserves an A+. “A genre-film”. But since when you can’t find beauty in perfection? With or without its controversies, you can’t lose it. It’s basically a moral issue. Nobody will be dismissed.

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Green Book premiered at the Toronto Toronto International Film Festival on September 11th 2018 and is out in the USA since November, 21th 2018. In Italy is distributed by Eagle Pictures. In cinemas from Thursday, January 31.