Last night in Hollywood, Jazz and I attended the premiere of Green Book at the AFI Fest. Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini and Peter Farrelly were all in attendance. Farrelly was the only one who took the mic, explaining that Ali and Mortensen took the gig when there was no money and at a time when no one else wanted to make it. As usual, Green Book brought the house down. It is the kind of film that can warm the coldest of hearts and is the one movie you can pretty much recommend to anyone and they’ll get it if not love it.
Watching the film for a second time I was more convinced than ever that, at least so far, these two performances are the best two I’ve seen this year. Viggo Mortensen has never been better. Voters may find a different reason to not vote for him. If they want to get caught up in the mass hysteria of our time that condemns people for mistakes made, well, then that is how it will have to be but there isn’t a better performance than his for lead actor that I’ve seen. And Mahershala Ali really takes over the film on second viewing, his performance is just brilliant. How he plays someone who must hide how he feels, not just about being a gay man, not just about being a black gay man, but also in his conversations with Tony as they make their way through the South. The slow thaw of Ali to eventually allow crude, ignorant Tony into his heart is really the joy that reveals itself by film’s end. The message here is that there are a lot of bad people in this country – they will never change. They will never not be bad people. Their minds are closed. Their hearts are full of hate. But there are other people, especially back in the 1960s in the Bronx, whose cultural conditioning has led them to be ignorant.
Green Book is the kind of movie that makes you feel like a better person walking out the door than you did walking in. Movies like this that celebrate love, friendship, evolution of character – there will always be a place for them both in the cinema and in our culture that turns to art, to storytelling to help us understand the complexities of our species.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that can turn on a crowd like Green Book does. How the industry responds is still an open question. If it’s me, nominations across the board – acting, writing, directing, SAG ensemble, PGA, DGA…if it’s true that voters vote with their heart, this is a movie that should do very well.
Photos from Just Jared: