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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Vacation Without Aggravation

Green Book (2018) on IMDb

Plot Overview

plumberNew York City, 1962. Saturday night at the Copacabana, Bobby Rydell (Von Lewis) is singing “Old Black Magic” when a couple customers get into a tussle over a dame and Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) takes care of business. Unfortunately, the business had connections and the Copa has to be shut down for eight weeks “for renovations.” In the mean­time Tony does what he can to make ends meet.

His ever practical wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) has called on two ace coons for bargain plumbing repairs (“The floor was moldy.”) Tony tolerates the “egg­plants” doing “an artisan's job” rather than take issue with his wife. His best job lead is as driver for classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Maher­shala Ali) on a two month concert tour of the deep south with his trio of musicians. Dapper Dr. Don is dressed “like the king of the jungle bunnies” and he looks the part. He'd had Tony Lip recommended to him for his “innate ability to handle trouble.” The plan is to adhere to the endorse­ments of The Negro Motorist Green Book, a guide to Negro-friendly establishments in the south. Sounds like a plan.


In Birmingham, Alabama Dr. Shirley gets it in his head that if he's going to be performing for a fancy white restaurant, he should be allowed to eat in the dining area, not in some utility closet. The manager chides him for being silly, that they have to honor customs and traditions. Okay. Well, if there's some tradition behind The Green Book, we should be able to make out what it says. Writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” from The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

That refers to a critical incident in the Bible where, Gen. 9:20-22, Noah got drunk on wine and was exposed in all his glory to his son Ham who brazenly viewed him uncovered in his tent. Noah's other two sons, Shem and Japheth, covered him up, Gen. 9:23. Ham had violated him, which Noah sniffed out upon awakening, Gen. 9:24. Noah's curse puts Ham's youngest son Canaan in a position of servitude, Gen. 9:25. Noah's other two sons Shem, Gen. 9:26, and Japheth, Gen. 9:27, were blessed by Noah. The blessing of Shem was shared by Japheth who was to dwell in the tents of Shem.

From Shem come the Semites, of course. Writer Bodie Hodge holds forth that: “Generally, from the Middle East in the land of Shinar (modern-day Iraq, where Babel was), Japheth's descendants went north toward Europe and Asia, Ham's went toward Africa, and Shem's remained in the Middle East” (183). The servitude of Ham as passing to his youngest son Canaan also encompassed his son Cush, see Gen. 10:6. Cush is Hebrew for black, whose descendants settled in Africa. Canaan is the youngest son of Ham carrying the curse on the whole family by a figure of speech called a synecdoche where a part stands for the whole. (Jasher 73:35) “For the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah, and his children and all his seed, as slaves to the children of Shem and to the children of Japheth, and unto their seed after them for slaves, forever.”

The issue of covering shows up in our movie “Green Book.” At the Copa some­one lifted the hat of Gio Loscudo (Joe Cortese) from the coat check, and Tony Lip saw to it that his covering was returned. Later at the YMCA Tony had some­one bring some towels to cover up two naked men who'd been caught “going at it.” And Tony did not like the way the Doc exposed his green in public (“Don't ever flash a wad of cash in a bar.”) As for Doc he begged off from a game of horse­shoes—the covering of horses' hooves—in order to “meet a friend” in a bar or the YMCA in a strange town. Tony was being very white, but not Doc.

We can expand the Green Book's literary message further through judicious use of parallels. Noah's family (of eight) being saved by water is analogous to, 1Pet. 3:20-21, Christians getting saved by water baptism. Becoming Christian through baptism into Christ is analogous, 1Cor. 10:2-5, to the Hebrews getting saved through baptism into Moses in the Red Sea. Some of them were rejected after­wards. Having some successful Jewish converts, but not others, is a theme of the book of Ruth, which analogy can apply to the Green Book. I refer my reader to Grace Goldin's Midrash on Ruth (36–7):

“Wife of my Chilion, Orpah, go your ways; I am returning to my own far country [Israel], Where we greet foreigners with scanty praise And treat idolaters with some effrontery; And it were well for Ruth to go with you Back to the atmosphere you always knew. What can I give you, girl? I am rock poor, I cannot dress you, cannot shelter you; You will be stoned as an idolater Or taken cooly when you turn a Jew; Our tongue is difficult, our very air Is dryer, and our dew is not your dew; You will not find in Judah anywhere The courtliness you are accustomed to.” Then Orpah kissed her mother[-in-law], and shed four— Four little tears she shed, for Chilion's sake; And turned about reluctantly, to take The road to Moab, to her father's door; But Ruth went on, her eyes like some gold lake, Holding Naomi's elbow, as before. “You were too harsh with Orpah,” Ruth declared. “Had you but coaxed her as she dared you to She might have gone the difficult way with you.” “We are forbidden bribery, my Ruth,” Replied Naomi, marching steadily now, Down a curve of white, ill-populated hills, “Since only those who come with extreme love For heaven and heavenly things, and love of God, Are welcome to be Jews.”

It's hard to be white, and it's hard to be Jewish, and it's hard to be Christian. An enterprising slave convert can be accepted by Christians as one free like them­selves, according to the book of Philemon. Shem and Japheth who loved higher things were given Noah's blessing but it was denied Ham who loved lower things. The Doc in the movie had a benefactor who enrolled him in the Leningrad Conservatory of Music at an early age, where there wasn't any systematic oppression of blacks since there weren't any blacks in Russia. After having received what was tanta­mount to a bribe to be white, he developed white mannerisms galore. But still his life was the pits on account of having lost his wife when his life as a musician on the road was not compatible with marriage, and his brother didn't like his life­style either. If he'd have been required to work in the fields as we saw other blacks doing in the movie, and then to obey the “sunset law” at night, he wouldn't have encountered the temptation that did him in.

Production Values

” (2018) was directed by Peter Farrelly. The screen­play was written by Nick Vellelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Farrelly. It stars Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, and Linda Cardellini. Lead performers Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali brought much depth to their characters while developing an inter­personal chemistry that wouldn't quit. Ali's piano playing is slick.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material. Kudos to Kris Bowers for his original score. The music included both period and classical pieces. I appreciated the movie's avoidance of politics.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

When the Doctor returns home to an elaborately furnished pad, one can see a chess­board set up with pieces ready to play. Both sides are white. Following this musician around is like playing a game of chess where you're white and your opponent is white, too. Makes for an identity crisis. Good luck figuring it out. I give this one a pass.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

The Book of Jasher. Translated from the Hebrew into English (1840). Photo litho­graphic reprint of exact edition published by J.H. Parry & Co., Salt Lake City: 1887. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Pub., 1988. Print, WEB.

Goldin, Grace. Come Under the Wings, A Midrash on Ruth. Philadelphia: The Jewish Society of America, 1958, 1980 / 5740. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.