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dir Peter Farrelly
scr Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga
prd Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Charles B Wessler
with Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D Marinov, Mike Hatton, PJ Byrne, Joe Cortese, Maggie Nixon, Von Lewis, Don Stark, Frank Vallelonga
release US 16.Nov.18, UK 1.Feb.19
18/US DreamWorks 2h09
Odd couple: Mortensen and Ali
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There's an engaging, crowd-pleasing tone to this topical true story, sanding off all the sharp edges while still telling a complex story that touches on a wide range of issues. It's warm and funny, strikingly well-made and anchored by two excellent central performances. So if it all feels a bit slick and enjoyable, despite the harsh reality of the situations, it's not too much of a problem.
In 1962 New York City, Italian meathead Tony (Mortensen) is hired by a record label to drive virtuoso pianist Don Shirley (Ali) on a tour through the Deep South. Don makes sure Tony's wife Dolores (Cardellini) will be fine while he's away for two months, and off they go with Don's accompanying musicians (Marinov and Hatton) in a matching blue Cadillac. As they have a series of encounters with locals, tough-guy Tony and meticulous-artist Don grate on each other and begin to find some camaraderie in the cause of standing up to bigotry.
The title refers to the guidebook for blacks travelling in segregated areas where these men must stay in separate hotels. The script plays with this and makes some solid points, highlighting preconceived ideas that persist today. There are also witty references to common assumptions among a variety of ethnic groups, including probably muted examples of the racial slurs of the day. The screenwriters (which include Tony's real son Nick) carefully balance these ideas, making strong points without ever being provocative.
Mortensen and Ali make a terrific duo, relaxing into the characters' skin to make the most of the banter between this beefy thug and refined aesthete. Both men are easy to identify with, which makes them deeply likeable. And it's nice that the ways they rub off on each other aren't too obvious. Cardellini is also strong in a side role, and scenes are filled out with a range of colourful people who have lots of attitude. So there's never a remotely dull moment.
For a true story, the plot feels tidy, traversing a gently involving arc as two men encounters various prejudices, including their own. The tone is similar to Hidden Figures, prying deeper truths out of historical injustice with warm humour and engaging, gently nudging drama. It's also quite simply a terrific story of two men discovering an unexpected connection, proving that the world becomes a better place when we listen to each other.
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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