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  • Colin Fraser


THREE AND A HALF STARS Black and white cross the cultural divide on a journey through the deep south.

Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali


It’s the early 1960’s and Dr Don Shirley is a concert pianist about to embark on a tour of America’s deep south. He hires a ‘manager’, a little because he needs a driver and bag wrangler but a lot because he’s heading into the jaws of the beast. The south is no place for an educated black man playing for white elites. Tony Lip - a hard talking, hard hitting Italian with considerable experience in ‘public relations’ - gets the job. So begins this generous road-movie that sets out to explore race relations, self improvement and what it means to be pleasant human being. Driving Mr Don, if you will.

The relationship (and emerging friendship) between Don and Tony is the heart of this comedy drama. It’s based on a true story and that truth is shown abundant respect through powerful performances by Viggo Mortensen (FAR FROM MEN) and Mahershala Ali (MOONLIGHT). The chemistry between the two is palpable yet, consummate actors they are, their pairing never overwhelms their characters who stay true to the narrative. It’s a credit to them and to director Peter Farrelly (better known for broad comedy like THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and DUMB AND DUMBER). Don and Tony make great company as we journey across the country and back in time for Christmas.

The flat tyre on this jaunt is that GREEN BOOK is immediately recognisable from dozens of similar odd-couple couplings from GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER through DRIVING MISS DAISY to THE INTOUCHABLES. Tony teaches Don to loosen up (and eat fried chicken) while Don teaches Tony the power of dignity (and not hitting people). Polar opposites discover something new in the space between and by the time we arrive at a Christmas eve feast in Tony’s big fat Italian kitchen, the car is well and truly running on empty.

Still, there’s great comfort in the familiar and when a timely message about tolerance and acceptance is delivered by talented company in a lavish production such as this, truly, there’s nothing to be a grinch about.

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