This is one of those road-trip movies that you happily embark on knowing exactly where you are headed and what the stops will be along the way – not even the revelation that involves a bailout from a lockup comes as a surprise. Having said that, I also admit that it’s a movie that is impossible not to love. Being based on a true story adds to its charm, and that the two actors involved combine so well make its otherwise standard procedural approach not worth carping about. In 1962, Tony (Viggo Mortensen), an out-of-work New York bouncer, was hired to act as driver and minder for the renowned pianist Dr Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a performing tour that would include the segregated deep South. The two men are poles apart – foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Tony is a yob whose claim to fame is his gluttony, whereas Shirley is prim and proper and dismayed by Tony’s gaucherie. Mortensen skates perilously close to caricature while doing his ‘Italian from the Bronx’ shtick, but Ali’s clipped aloofness is equally inflated, so the camaraderie that grows between them is more satisfying because of those extremes. In dealing with his potentially explosive subject, director Peter Farrelly finds a perfect balance between comedy and drama, with the ugly racism encountered by Shirley in the redneck towns contrasted with the intimate journey of self-awakening that the odd couple are sharing. Shirley has never heard Little Richard – ‘this is your people’s music!’ Tony says in frustration – nor has he eaten fried chicken, while Tony’s blinkered life experience has been concerned only with putting food on the table for his family – in an early scene, we see that he has thrown in the bin two glasses that were drunk from by black workmen. The ultimate moment, when Shirley breaks the chains that bind him is as clichéd as it gets, while the cheesy finale, which includes a neat joke about Tony’s letters to his wife, are precisely what you hoped for.
Support The Echo
Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.
Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.