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Green Book

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Green Book Movie Poster Image
Crowd-pleasing drama explores race, class, friendship.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

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, "stooge," and "brillo pad," as well as "wop," "guinea" and "hillbilly." The word "colored" is used to describe black people.

Consumerism

Brands used to establish historical accuracy include Cadillac, Cutty Sark whisky, Steinway pianos, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tony smokes cigarettes in many scenes. 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.

What 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 people 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywcorless December 8, 2018

Great storey about racism, classism, and contrasts, but very coarse.

This movie touches several very difficult social issues set with the southern US, in 1962 with racism the most obvious. The clash of cultures, class and sexual... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bythegordfather November 21, 2018

Requires some context to understand some themes portrayed.

Overall I think it was a great movie that ended on a satisfying note! Some scenes where stereotypes and race-related moments require the context of the history... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written by_ds3_ December 3, 2018

What's the story?

Inspired by a true story, GREEN BOOK takes place in 1962 and follows Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a white, Italian American New York City bouncer who takes a temporary job driving black concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as he travels throughout the Midwest and the Deep South on a concert tour. The movie's title refers to a (now historical) guide for what Tony calls "traveling while black": The Green Book is a directory of restaurants and accommodations that cater to African Americans throughout the segregated South. As the vulgar, working-class, and admittedly racist Tony and the incredibly well-educated, intelligent Dr. Shirley get to know each other on the road, they challenge stereotypes and grow to form an unlikely friendship. But the farther into the South they travel, the more they're forced to deal with everything from Jim Crow laws to hate crimes.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Green Book. What effect does it have? What does it mean for the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the movie address and handle the topics of race and segregation? What about class? How does Dr. Shirley defy others' prejudices and expectations?

  • Which characters do you consider role models? What character strengths do they display? How do both main characters show empathy?

  • How have things changed since the movie's 1960s setting? How haven't they?

  • Some have criticized the movie for the fact that, despite the title, it focuses more on Tony's life than Dr. Shirley's. Do you agree?

Movie details

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