For journalists who spend half the year sussing out the Oscar race, Toronto’s announcement on Sunday that Peter Farrelly’s Green Book had won the People’s Choice Award offered a flurry of excitement. Variety’s Erin Nyren is quick to point out that “five audience award winners have gone on to capture best picture, including Slumdog Millionaire, 12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech, American Beauty, and Chariots of Fire. In 2016, the prize went to La La Land, while last year’s award went to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both were nominated for best picture.”
Farrelly, primarily known for the films he’s codirected with his brother Bobby, such as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary, takes the title of his new film from The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guide published between 1936 and 1966 offering African American travelers advice on where they might find food and lodging without running into hostility. In Green Book, the year is 1962, and real-life concert pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is being driven through the Jim Crow South by former nightclub bouncer Frank Anthony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen).