The other day my wife and I went to go see the movie “The Green Book.” It was in the dollar theater by this time (you know, the kind of theater where you bring your own chair..yes we are cheapskates). Anyway, we were surprised to see the place fill up with about 100 people eager to see this film. After waiting through 20 minutes of stupid commercials, the movie finally started.
I recommend “The Green Book” with caution. It is suitable only for adults, and if you go, you should know that it does contain some pretty vulgar language and at least one scene that made my skin crawl. However, when the movie ended, everyone in that audience applauded. Why?
First, the story was well told. The story of concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley (who was black) and his driver Tony Villalonga (who is white) traveling through the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s was a heart warming and humorous lesson. The film also had several surprising twists and turns, but for me it was the stark contrasts in several themes that had me glued in attention. You clearly see the contrasts between empty versus full, wealth versus poverty. Dr. Shirley had an apartment full of all sorts of expensive furniture, jewelry, and paintings, but it was just so much clutter. Tony lived in a crowded apartment, but it was warm with the love of a family (and quite a funny extended Italian family!). Dr. Shirley was erudite with his formal education, but clueless about real love and the savvy ways of the world. He tries to drown his pain of loneliness in a bottle of Cutty Sark every night. Tony writes barely literate love letters to his wife every night, and will do anything to get home by Christmas Eve to be with his happy and rowdy family.
The best part was the end…but I won’t spoil it for you. Both men were weak, and both men were powerful in their own ways. But the best lesson in the film was that if we can put down our defenses and prejudices for a minute, and respect and appreciate the talents and gifts of one another, even though we may be poles apart in other areas…we can accomplish some pretty good stuff together.
It was no wonder to my wife and me why “The Green Book” won an academy award.