Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / Green Book

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/green_book.jpg
Advertisement:

Green Book is a 2018 historical dramedy directed by Peter Farrelly.

When he's forced to seek temporary employment for the winter, New York City bouncer Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) lands an interview with famed concert pianist Donald "Don" Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is seeking a personal valet for an eight-week tour — one predominantly visiting the Deep South.

In addition to driving Don from gig to gig and generally assisting him, he's also responsible for keeping Don safe from physical violence. Over the course of the trip, Tony and Don form an unlikely bond that'll affect both their lives for good. Linda Cardellini also stars as Tony's wife Dolores.


Advertisement:

Green Book provides examples of:

  • The '60s: Set in this decade.
  • The Alcoholic: Don is a functional example: he's a heavy drinker and requests an entire bottle of Cutty Sark in his tour rider every night, but it does not interfere with his musical abilities.
  • Angry Black Man: Subverted by Don. He has a bit of a temper at times, but it's not manifested with anger.
  • Artistic License: Kentucky Fried Chicken did not sell Extra Crispy buckets in 1962.
  • Based on a True Story: Adapted from real events.
  • Big Eater: Tony, hardly a scene goes by where he isn't stuffing his face, including while driving and Don remarks upon it. Near the beginning he gets into a hot-dog eating contest with a noticeably portlier gentleman... and wins. This culminates in him eating an entire pizza by folding it in half.
  • Bilingual Backfire: When Don addresses Tony in perfect Italian, it's obvious that he understood the conversation between Tony and one of his friends, during which the latter made slightly derogatory comments about him and offered Tony another job.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bi the Way: Don was married once and seems to regret his marriage fell apart but he is not completely heterosexual, leading to a scene where he was nearly arrested due to having a public rendezvous with another man at a pool.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Don advises Tony to shorten his name for the tour, because "Vallelonga" is difficult to pronounce. He refuses. Later, when Tony is introduced before a concert, the host actually cannot pronounce "Vallelonga" correctly. Much later, another host cannot remember Tony's name correctly and he uses an incorrect name.
    • Tony steals a green rock. Don tells him to give it back and Tony seems to give in. Later, when Tony is alone in his bedroom, he takes the rock out of his pocket. Still later, when they are driving in the snow, Don tells Tony to put the rock on the dashboard to bring good luck, which shows that he has always been aware that Tony had kept the rock. In the very end, Don puts the rock on a piece of furniture in his apartment, which means that he has stolen the rock from Tony.
    • Don has never eaten fried chicken. Tony, astonished that a black man has never eaten it, insists that Don eats some in the car. Finally, Don accepts and he confesses that it is good. Later, Don is offered a dinner. The host explains that he asked his (black) kitchen staff what Don might like to eat, to which they answered 'fried chicken', so they prepared fried chicken for him.
    • In the beginning of the road trip, Tony explains that a friend of his nicknames Pittsburgh "Tittsburgh", because the women there are supposed to have bigger breasts than elsewhere. In the end of the trip, Tony tells Don that something has been eating at him the whole trip: Tittsburgh was a major disappointment.
    • Over the course of the film, Don helps Tony to write love letters to his wife, who is very happy to receive such romantic letters. In the end, when Don shows up at Tony's house, the wife immediately thanks Don for the letters, which shows that she had guessed her husband did not write them by himself.
  • But Not Too Gay: Don remains firmly in the closet through the whole movie, and his attraction to men is never explored beyond him being caught naked with one at a pool. He does however, show elements of Camp Gay when very, very drunk.
  • Category Traitor: Tony is shocked when Don admits not knowing much music by African-American singers or that he's never tried fried chicken.
  • Cunning Linguist: Don speaks in perfect Russian to the other members of his trio and in Italian to Tony (in Real Life, Shirley was fluent in 8 languages).
  • The Dandy: Don, who dresses aristocratically, travels with small blanket draped over him, and has refined tastes.
  • Deep South: Much of the film is set in the Deep South during the 1960s, where something like the titular Green Book was a necessity for African-Americans to travel safely.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: A non romantic version. In the beginning, Don is haughty and distant. He is disdainful of Tony. Over the course of the film, he will develop a genuine friendship relationship with him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The film generally presents an image of how the Deep South actually was in the 1960s, with some edges filed off. Tony and his family's attitude towards African-Americans are also right in line with the times.
  • Discriminate and Switch: As they were trying to get back to New York in time for Christmas, they get pulled over by a cop and they both expect this to be a repeat of a previous incident where they were flagged down by a racist policeman. Turns out the cop just noticed that one of their back tires was flat and helps them change it before wishing them both a Merry Christmas.
  • Dumb Muscle: Although he's a pretty tough guy on the surface, it's revealed that Tony has bad writing skills and often isn't very classy (such as putting chewed food back onto the platter).
  • Foreign Queasine: Well, foreign to New York. Tony is a Big Eater who is always stuffing his face throughout the film, but late in the movie he is offered a high class pimento cheese sandwich and he could't stomach it.
  • Foreshadowing: The only time we see Don behave in any way "stereotypically gay" is when he is deeply drunk. But a short time later, he is placed under arrest for unstated crimes in the presence of another naked man.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Tony's family speaks a lot of Italian around the house, invoking itself in one instance when they use it to mask their racism towards black plumbers in their house.
  • Happily Married: Tony's background. This is why it is difficult for him to accept the driver's job, because it means that he will be away from his wife for weeks.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Tony frequently talks with his family and compatriots in Italian to talk about other people behind their backs. It doesn't work with Don.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: A downplayed example. Don Shirley is depicted as being culturally distant from other black people, while his living family insists that he was good friends with them and other prominent black musicians.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Tony is this to a T. He's boorish, foul-mouthed, crude, uncultured, has a bit of a temper, casually racist and not above theft or violence, but he's also a genuinely loving family man who eventually warms up to Don and lets go of his prejudice.
    • Don seems to be just a haughty dandy. During Tony's job interview, he sits on a throne. He mocks Tony's ignorance. He also seems to consider himself superior to other black people. Actually, he suffers from being estranged from both black people (because of his privileged status) and white people (because of white people's prejudices). He is also a brave person who dare to tour in the Deep South, even if he knows it is dangerous and even if he has more lucrative opportunities, because he thinks that it is useful to change the white people's minds about black people.
  • MacGuffin Title: The title's "Green Book" refers to a real publication that was made for African-Americans to travel with, listing establishments where they would be safe from prejudice. One such edition of the Green Book is seen in the movie.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Played with between Tony and Don. The former is quite boorish and unpolished, while Don is a cultured artist who is apparently not heterosexual.
  • Noble Bigot: Tony to a T. Even though he is undoubtedly racist at the beginning of the tour, he willingly puts himself in harms way to defend Don Shirley from physical violence and shows far more disgust towards Southern bigots. His family members initially hold bets he wouldn't last a couple weeks working for a black man, but despite an uncouth attitude and inappropriate comments he is very good at his job and becomes friends with Don.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Don holds Ph.D.s in multiple fields including classical piano and thus goes by the title of doctor, Tony is initially under the belief he will be working with a medical doctor.
  • Odd Couple: Don, a refined black pianist, and Tony, a boorish Italian American bouncer, become friends.
  • One Phone Call: Don uses his when he and Tony are arrested. It leads to Robert F. Kennedy getting both released.
  • Only in It for the Money: Subverted. In the beginning, Tony helps Don only because he will receive a large amount of money and he needs it to support his family. Over the course of the film, Tony will become friend with Don, and money becomes less important for him: he rejects an offer for another job with a higher pay (he even rejects Don's offer for a pay rise); in the end, he rejects a bribe offered to him to convince Don to play in a restaurant even if he is not allowed to eat.
  • Oscar Bait: Ticks all the boxes. It's a historical fiction film about a marginalized person overcoming categorization and his friendship with a white man.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Tony isn't the most enlightened white man when we meet him. He dismisses and stereotypes other racial groups, throws out his own glasses in apparent disgust after they are used by black men, and regularly disrespects Don to his face in a manner he does not to his other employers. Unlike other examples of this trope, him learning to be more respectful and accepting actually comprises his character arc, and his attitudes are notably different when he returns home.
    • Tony actually subverts this expectation when Don is caught cavorting with another man. Tony handles the situation gracefully and tells him that he's "been working in New York City clubs for years", implying that he's much more accepting of homosexuality than might be expected from a straight man from his time.
  • Rambunctious Italian: The Italian-American "Tony Lip" is a smooth hustler able to talk his way out of any situation. He's also a tough guy not afraid to bust a few heads if he needs to. He talks pretty much constantly while driving, much to Dr. Shirley's consternation, and his whole family is loud and emotive.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The movie ends by showing photos of the real Tony and Dr. Shirley, and fills in some info about what happened to them in real life after the events of the movie (they stayed friends).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tony is the Red Oni. He is enthusiastic, he enjoys eating and he does not hesitate to break the rules. Don is the Blue Oni. He is intellectual, cultured and calm.
  • Road Trip Plot: Tony and Don travel together through the United States during Don's music trio tour.
  • Running Gag:
    • Tony is a Big Eater. This is demonstrated scenes after scenes.
    • The green rock shows up four times in the film. Its appearance gets funnier and funnier.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • Tony refuses to ditch Don for a chance to get another 'job' even after being offered double the money he was offered to work for Don.
    • When offered a bribe to convince Don to conform to the fact he's not allowed to dine at the restaurant his music trio is about to play in, he refuses.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: When Don and Tony are arrested, they're released because the former is friends with Bobby Kennedy.
  • Seen It All: Tony doesn't bat an eye when Don is arrested for homosexuality, explaining that he's worked in nightclubs a long time.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Don is a cultured artist, he can write love letters and he is not heterosexual. Tony is heterosexual and he does not hesitate to punch people in the face when needed (or even when not needed).
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Don is a refined classic pianist. Tony comes from the slums of New York. It's difficult for them to get on with each other in the beginning. For example, Don wants to correct Tony's diction.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Tony is every bit the coarse, uncultured, working-class boor that he appears to be... and also shows himself to be uncannily talented in talking and manipulating his way out of dangerous situations and generally getting people to do what he wants. As he describes it, he's a good "bullshit artist."
  • Stout Strength: Tony is far from a typical body sculpted muscleman with a protruding gut whenever we see him with a tank top on, but there is no doubt he is physically powerful. He typically works as a bouncer and bodyguard.
  • Stylistic Suck: Tony's letters to his wife before Don coaches him. He's obviously trying to be heartfelt, but they are filled with platitudes and his handle on things like spelling and proper language is unsure, to say the least. Afterwards he gets better at articulating himself afterwards, such that Tony starts writing his own letters near the end of their tour again.
    • Best exemplified the first time Don helps Tony with a letter. After Don dictates a long, flowery and eloquent message about how much Tony loves and misses his wife, Tony adds a P.S "kiss the kids" at the end, something which Don finds unorthodox but charming in its own way.
    Don: That's like clanging a cowbell at the end of Shostakovich's Seventh.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Don appears to be one when he's caught "skinny-dipping" with another man.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: According to Shirley's brother and nephew, the film depicts Don very inaccurately, and highly exaggerates the supposed friendship between him and Vallelonga.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A brief title card at the end mentions Don and Tony were life-long friends after the tour, and died within months of one another.
  • White Man's Burden: Don is successful black artist, but he has no family and no friends. Moreover, he wants to go on tour in the Deep South, where he will encounter many problems. Tony will help him to overcome the problems during his tour, but more importantly he will help him to develop human relationships (Tony becomes friends with Don; he also advises Don to write a letter to his estranged brother). In the beginning, Tony helps Don only because of the money he will get, but in the end he helps him selflessly, because he regards Don as a friend. Zigzagged, because Tony is Only in It for the Money in the beginning, and because Don also helps Tony to overcome his prejudices.
  • The Whitest Black Guy: Don, despite wanting to break barriers with his tour, finds himself disconnected from other black people and the hardships they face in the South. As a result, he remains distant from the other tenants of most the hotels he stays in and regularly puts himself into dangerous situations by assuming access to whites-only establishments. This led to Shirley's living family decrying the film as a "symphony of lies".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tony and Don are this at times.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Don receives much of this sentiment from his white audiences and bookers. He positively hates it, especially since they are quite happy to listen to him but will still treat him like any other Black person - i.e like dirt - when he's not playing.

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback