Review: Why You Shouldn’t Watch Greenbook

The movie “Green Book” has received many gushing reviews and already won three Golden Globes including Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture. However, many critics fail to look at the ethical implications of this movie, and how harmful it is to people of color.


This movie, based on a true story, stars Mahershala Ali as the queer black pianist Dr. Don Shirley, who is chauffeured by an Italian-American named Tony Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen. They drive through the deep South in the middle of the Jim Crow era in the 1950s and 60s so Shirley can perform at concerts.


“Green Book” is supposed to be about an inspiring relationship that has transcended race and class. In reality, it’s another movie like “The Blind Side” or “Lawrence of Arabia”.  that takes the perspective of the white man and erases the hardships of the black minority.


Firstly, “Greenbook” takes little notice of what it’s actual namesake is. It rarely mentions what greenbooks are, and when it does, it’s wrong.


The “Negro Motorist Green Book,” most commonly referred to as a greenbook, was a travel guide for African-American roadtrippers that served to show places African-Americans could  stay safe and free from harm, during this time when many hotels did not allow African Americans to rent rooms. For example, greenbooks had a list of diners and auto shops that would actually serve them instead of turning them away.


The movie “Green Book,” however, suggests that green books were only required in the Deep South, when it was a necessity across the United States, and fails to acknowledge it’s enormous legacy.


Secondly, “Green Book”, which is co-written by the real life Vallelonga’s son, doesn’t appear to reflect the true story of Dr. Shirley and Vallelonga. Maurice Shirley, Don Shirley’s only brother, penned a letter to the press and described feeling “furious” after seeing the movie.


“He fired Tony,” Maurice Shirley told Shadow and Act, a digital black-led news platform. “Which is consistent with the many firings he did with all of his chauffeurs over time…Tony would not open the door, he would not take any bags, he would take his [chauffeur’s] cap off when Donald got out of the car, and several times Donald would find him with the cap off, and confronted him. When you hear that Tony had been with him for 18 months, I can assure you, no chauffeur lasted with my brother for 18 months.”


Mahershala Ali personally apologized to Maurice Shirley, and stated that he was sorry if he caused any harm, and he was “unaware” that there was any living family members of Dr. Shirley he could consult with.


“Greenbook” is an antiquated, colonialist movie that is just another unnecessary white savior movie. Ultimately, this movie exploits Shirley to serve Vallelonga’s narrative. It doesn’t matter how “good” the movie is. If it has a racist narrative, you shouldn’t support it.


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