This film has suffered a lot of controversy by the talent and by the people who lived the life story. I do feel that this film isn’t above the criticisms it has endured by it is still worth the watch. The story of Tony Lip and Don Shirley is a classic tale of a white man learning to be better to be more tolerant of others by working with a man of color. The acting that is done by both Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson should be commended. That is the selling ticket with their direction by Peter Farley that makes this film worthy of the big screen.
The story overall is pretty straightforward with its tale of how Tony Lip was an average working New Yorker trying to feed his family and he finds a new opportunity to drive musician Don Shirley across the south to meet all of his concerts. The scenes that really stood out where the ones where Don Shirley was helping Tony learn how to write better letters to his wife. Those moments that really resonated to show their growing friendship. Several times in the car they would have casual everyday conversations about discussing their lives and who they were and it was just nice to see two characters learn from each other who are from different backgrounds learning to grow as people.
You know, my father used to say, whatever you do, do it 100%. When you work, work. When you laugh, laugh. When you eat, eat like it’s your last meal.
The negatives I had with the film were mainly some of the ways the film dealt with racism. I didn’t care for the KFC scene that felt awkward and weirdly played out. I wish that there had been better drama than that final performance that wouldn’t let Don Shirley eat at the restaurant he was to do a show at. Though I appreciated what Tony did, it didn’t remove the fact it felt too cliche. Though they alluded to Don Shirley being homosexual, it felt out of place and just a second handicap for the character that didn’t progress the story beyond one scene. Though there have been a lot of controversies with this film not being very accurate from the Shirley family, it does detract the veil of truthfulness.
I would say that though this film has a lot of cliches’ it is still worthy of being seen. There is nothing wrong with a pleasant movie, it just needs to be a great movie to be considered something to remember. The performances are what really sell this movie.