Screen » Film

TIFF 2018: Driving Dr. Shirley


  • George Pimentel Getty Images for TIFF
  • Viggo Mortensen
Well, I certainly didn't see this one coming. Green Book, which slipped below most people's radars at the Toronto International Film Festival, burst into the Oscar conversation just as TIFF was preparing to roll up its red carpet for another year. Starring part-time Idaho resident Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book takes us on an unlikely ride to tell the true tale of how an Italian-American wiseguy (Mortensen) is hired to be the personal driver of famed classical/jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Ali). But this is not any ordinary chauffeur gig; this goombah has to transport Shirley on an eight-week concert tour through the Deep South in the early 1960s.

  • TIFF
Now, you're probably familiar with blue books (that indicate the price of used or new cars), or so-called "little black books" (listing the phone numbers of paramours). But chances are, you've never heard of the Negro Motorist Green Book. Published in the mid-20th century, the Green Book listed hotels and restaurants where African-Americans were "accepted," particularly in the Jim Crow southern U.S. And indeed, the Green Book was close at hand as Shirley navigated the pre-Civil Rights era South, in spite of his wealth and acclaim. To that end, this fabulous new film, which is expected to be released in late November, shares an important chapter (quite literally) of American history. But Green Book is so much more satisfying. In fact, it includes quite a few scenes of gut-busting comedy. So, we should not be terribly surprised to learn that Green Book's director is Peter Farrelly—yes, of the Farrelly brothers, the wickedly successful comedy directing team of Kingpin, Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary.

Suffice to say, I am unabashedly recommending Green Book to anyone who has wants to see one of the best films of the year. It checks all the boxes. Mortensen and Ali are terrific, so, don't be stunned if both get nominations come award season. Make no mistake: This is a big crowd-pleaser. Imagine, if you will, the best elements of, say, Driving Miss Daisy and Hidden Figures, with some well-placed laughs and unexpected tears added for a bit of much-needed spice.