If you had told me at the beginning of this year that Peter Farrelly, whose storied career in comedy directing and writing has all but circled the drain this past decade, would be directing one of the front-runners for next year’s Best Picture race, I would have asked you who your dealer was, and if I could have their number. Because I would have thought that only somebody who took an excessive amount of prohibited substances could say something so moronically-hilarious, ironically enough.
And how wrong I would have been for doing that. Not only because it would generally be a rude thing to do, but also because Farrelly’s foray into drama, Green Book, really is that once-mythical front-runner. It is also one of the funniest, best-acted, best-directed, heartfelt, and generally best feel-good films of the year. Pretty much the entire cast and crew have secured Oscar noms in their respective categories, save for maybe Linda Cardellini for Best Supporting Actress. It would be a shame if she were snubbed, because her performance is equally as great as that of Mahershala Ali’s or her fictional husband played by Viggo Mortensen (and a scene centered around her was one of two to get me choked up), but it simply may be because her greatness could get drowned out in a film chock-full of it.
Although Ali has gotten national recognition recently for his breakout performance and Best Supporting Actor win for 2016’s Moonlight, he has completely reinvented himself here, opting for a quieter, more outwardly sophisticated role. This has allowed him to quickly create two of the most opposite roles any actor has ever played. This character has allowed Ali to peel back so many layers that the character that we see at the end of the film has changed radically in many ways, and is a far cry from the throne-sitting, holier-than-thou piano player we encounter in the film’s first act. His subtle mannerisms allow us to become lost in his character’s mysterious nature. At a point I stopped seeing Ali, and only saw Dr. Don Sherly. The same could be said for Viggo Mortensen’s performance as the incomparably-hilarious and lovably-naive Tony ‘Lip’ Vallelonga. The relationship they build may feel familiar at times, but by the end it becomes a narrative all its own, and thus a film all its own, separated from the cliches it sometimes opts into. Maybe it’s just the film’s I have been seeing at HIFF this year, but I was absolutely refreshed by the tone Farrelly and his creative collaborators (one of whom was Tony’s son Nick) framed this story through.
The topics covered are serious, and the movie has its drama (which soars, in my opinion), but it is certainly, without a doubt, the funniest film Farrelly has directed since becoming a landmark in comedy cinema with the help of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. If I were a betting man, I would say this film is a guaranteed front-runner in nearly every major category this awards season, and a shoe-in for Best Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, and possibly even Best Picture. I cannot think of a film this awards season that has thus been so ubiquitously raved about. Also, it won the audience award at TIFF less than two months back, and that is usually a reliable forecast for the following year’s Oscars ceremony climax. Roll out the gold carpets, because just a couple of months into next year, we may be referring to the director of Dumb and Dumber To as “Oscar Award-Winner.” Strange times we live in, indeed.