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Green Book


Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Director: Peter Farrelly

Brilliant, just brilliant - who says they can't make 'em like this anymore. It's 1962 and Tony Vallelonga (Mortensen), known as Tony Lip because of his constant chatter, is a mildly racial bouncer at the Copacabana Club in New York.

At leisure for two months while the club is closed for renovations, Tony finds himself contacted by distinguished black pianist Don Shirley (Ali), with a view to becoming his driver on an eight-week tour - into the Deep South, no less.

Such a trip in '62 is fraught with obvious dangers, but Tony, despite making little impression at his interview, finds that Shirley wants to hire him.

Although the pianist is classically trained, Tony discovers that he and his trio now play what you might call classical jazz. 'He plays like Liberace,' he enthuses in a letter to his wife (Cardellini), 'only better.'

Naturally, the two men, the ill-educated but street-smart Tony and the aloof, well-read and latently bisexual Shirley, have much to learn from one another and they do, with the assistance of a sparkling script (partly written by Tony's real-life actor-writer son) that never misses a trick.

Mortensen and Ali are pitch-perfect here, and the latter's piano-fingering is simply phenomenal. It must be added that Cardellini, once Velma in the Scooby-Doo films, is also excellent as Tony's loving wife.

Naturally there are bumps along the way in what amounts to a 'road' film, but the screenplay finds the right tone for all of them. You'll chuckle (frequently), well up at the appropriate moments and resent the inevitable racism - Shirley's last concert hosts require him to use the outdoor privy - in a film that has literacy, warmth, drama and crackling exchanges between its two leading characters, not to mention ace cinematography by Sean Porter.

My colleagues know how mean I can be with my higher ratings, but I simply cannot refuse this exquisite film a 10.

David Quinlan

USA 2018. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne. Colour by FotoKem.
133 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Jan 2019