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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive messages related to race, class, discrimination. Encourages people to look beyond prejudices to see people as individuals, not stereotypes. Even if some stereotypes apply (Tony is Italian and does like pasta and pizza), they shouldn't be assumed (Dr. Shirley has never eaten fried chicken). Argues that individual connection and friendship can break down barriers, discrimination, racism. Empathy a clear theme.
Positive Role Models
Dr. Shirley is a genius, a world-class musician who takes the time to help Tony better himself. He's also an example of a man doing his best to defy stereotypes about black men in Jim Crow South. Tony doesn't allow his racism to get in the way of taking the job, connecting with Dr. Shirley. They learn to look past prejudices and form an unlikely bond.
Violence & Scariness
Fistfight after verbal confrontation in and in front of nightclub. A black man gets beaten up in a bar for no reason. Tony threatens to pull out a gun to defend Dr. Shirley; bartender then pulls out shotgun. Police officer stops Tony and Dr. Shirley's car; after Tony punches cop, cop arrests both men, making veiled threats about "boy" being "his." Men who engaged in sexual activity are caught, handcuffed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple hugs and kisses. Two people who were engaging in sexual activity are shown after the fact, naked but curled up so that no sensitive body parts are shown.
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Frequent language includes two uses of "f--k," plus "goddamn," "s--t," "a--hole," "bulls--t," "son of a bitch," "Jesus Christ," "bastard," "pr--k," "t-ts," "hell," "crap," and "garbage." "Christ" as an exclamation. Also many racial epithets: "eggplant," "coon," "boy," the "N" word, "chink," "spool," "kraut," "stooge," and "brillo pad," as well as "wop," "guinea" and "hillbilly." The word "colored" is used to describe black people.
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Products & Purchases
Brands used to establish historical accuracy include Cadillac, Cutty Sark whisky, Steinway pianos, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Tony smokes cigarettes constantly. A woman sells cigarettes at a club. Adults drink alcohol in bars at meals, parties, and by themselves. Dr. Shirley drinks from a bottle of whiskey (presumably nearly the entire bottle) every night. He gets drunk at a bar.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Green Book is a drama set in the 1960s about a racist Italian American man (Viggo Mortensen) who takes a temporary job chauffeuring an acclaimed black pianist (Mahershala Ali) during his concert tour of the Midwest and Deep South. Called by some a "race-flipped Driving Miss Daisy," the crowd-pleasing story explores how the two men had to abide by the titular Green Book, a "traveling while black" guide to restaurants and accommodations that allowed black guests in the '60s. Characters get beaten and threatened (including with a shotgun), there's a fistfight, and two men are handcuffed after being caught engaging in sexual activity (nothing sensitive shown). There's also quite a bit of language (including "s--t," the "N" word, and more) and drinking/smoking. But the film's messages about empathy and the danger of prejudice and stereotypes are important and thought-provoking. And the story is a timely reminder of how, just a few decades ago, there were whole parts of the country where segregation kept African Americans from fully participating in civic life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Mortensen and Ali both give fabulous performances in this feel-good road-trip drama that's part buddy comedy, part history lesson, and part social commentary on friendship and race. Director Peter Farrelly, best known for raunchy comedies like There's Something About Mary, brings out the humor in Tony and Dr. Shirley's interactions; he allows the actors to shine in completely opposing ways. Mortensen, who reportedly gained more than 30 pounds for the role, immerses himself in showy Bronx bravado, while Ali is a picture of nuanced restraint, with plenty of emotion simmering beneath the surface. Both portrayals are award-worthy, as are Ali's musical performances (he went through extensive piano training to pull them off).
It's not easy to revisit a time in history when gifted black artists could entertain all-white crowds but not sit or dine among them -- or even use the same bathroom. Dr. Shirley refuses to lower himself via vulgarity or even by listening to popular music (he can't tell Aretha Franklin from Chubby Checker), and he fully understands that the moment he steps off stage, he's just another black man to the white audiences who moments earlier applauded his talent. While Tony isn't in the role of the dreaded "white savior," Green Book's story is more about him than Dr. Shirley, who's infinitely more self-aware -- and also more of a mystery. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that Dr. Shirley's personal life isn't explored via more than a couple of references to his estranged brother and a failed marriage and one poignant monologue about not fitting into either white or black society. Especially considering that viewers meet nearly all of Tony's large Italian family, including his more open-minded wife, Dolores (Linda Cardellini), to whom he writes (with help from Dr. Shirley) increasingly poetic love letters from the road. Really, the entire movie is a love letter of sorts -- to a friendship that's a reminder that the world needs more empathy and human connection ... not to mention mind-blowing music.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
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Great Movies with Black Characters
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate