Peter Farrelly’s crowd-pleasing Deep South road trip movie Green Book won the Toronto International Film Festival’s audience award on Sunday, putting it on an envious path to the Oscars. Toronto’s People’s Choice Award is one of the most closely watched of the fall festival circuit because it often corresponds with awards-season success. In the past decade, every Toronto People’s Choice winner has scored a best-picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
Few pundits pegged Green Book as an awards favourite ahead of its world premiere in Toronto. It is, after all, directed by one-half of the sibling duo best known for broad comedies like There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber.
But the audience response was rapturous to Green Book, which stars Mahershala Ali as a classical pianist on a concert tour of the Deep South in the 1960s. Viggo Mortensen plays the Italian-American bouncer hired to drive him while relying on The Green Book, the guide for African-American-friendly hotels and restaurants.
The first runner-up for Toronto’s top prize was Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk. The second runner-up was Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white neo-realistic drama Roma.
Failing to place in the top three, to the surprise of many, was Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. His remake of the Hollywood classic, starring Lady Gaga, had been widely considered the audience-award front-runner in Toronto.
Last year’s audience award in Toronto went to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Toronto’s audience award for documentary went to E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s Free Solo, about mountain climber Alex Honnold.