However inaccurate this account of the life of Dr. Don Shirley may be, I found the movie Green Book to be a treasure. I clapped at the end of the film along with a few others in the audience. I have seen countless movies that I immediately forgot shortly after I left the theater. This will not be the case here.
This well-developed story establishes the unlikely bond that was formed between a classical pianist and his chauffeur. They spend a couple of months on the road as Shirley plays concerts throughout the South. He had to rely on the use of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book which directed African-American travelers to safe lodgings during the 50’s and 60’s.
Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is highly-polished and he lives between two worlds, not quite fitting into either one. Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen),who sorely needs a job, is hired as his chauffeur and they have enough time to bridge their differences. They survive an arrest, some acts of violence and the never-ending threats of the racial divide in the American South.
They embark on their sojourn from New York City and drive south making stops for concerts in places such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, Memphis, Tupelo, Jackson, New Orleans and finally in Birmingham. Each city brings both highs and lows as the culture shock continues to deepen as they go further south.
Octavia Spencer is the Executive Producer of Green Book and I think that she did a fine job. Shirley’s family claims that it is filled with lies. It may be flawed, but hopefully they will realize that this is a new exposure to many people about the life of Dr. Don Shirley. I had never heard of him.
After seeing this movie, I did plenty of research on him, looked at his images and even listened to some of his soothing piano pieces. So, I would say that the movie Green Book offers a green light for viewers to take note of Shirley’ life and his many accomplishments. There will definitely be Oscar buzzes surrounding these two superb actors who portrayed two men from totally different walks of life!
Lynn M. December 1, 2018