The people have spoken – at least those common folk who attended the just-wrapped 43rd Toronto International Film Festival and voted for the esteemed People’s Choice Award. While there was speculation that Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” might win, it instead went to “Green Book,” which received a rousing standing ovation at its premiere at North America’s biggest film gathering.
The real-life story set against the backdrop of racial unrest in the ‘60s looks at the friendship between an Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) and a Jamaican-American jazz musician (Mahershala Ali, who won best supporting actor in “Moonlight”) as they drive around the country. The big surprise is that it is the solo directing debut of Peter Farrelly, who teamed up with brother Bobby to make such raucously raunchy comedies as “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary.” It has been described as akin to such crowd-pleasers as “The Help” and “Hidden Figures,” both of which made the Best Picture cut at the Oscars.
Two more expected titles, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” and Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” were second and first runners-up respectively.
The People’s Choice winner doesn’t always end up grabbing Oscar’s top honor, although more than a few have gone on to such glory, including 1981’s “Chariots of Fire,” 1999’s “American Beauty,” 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The King’s Speech” and “12 Year’s a Slave.” But they generally earn some Academy Award recognition, as was the case with “La La Land” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
“Green Book,” which is due to open November 21 — just in time for the holidays ‐ right now stands at 100% positive at Rotten Tomatoes. Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy sums up most critical sentiments: “Distinctive and amusing turns by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali make Peter Farrelly’s first solo feature outing a lively and likable diversion.”