Wednesday, December 28

Crash: Thoughts on a Movie

So, I got together with some friends last night. We watched some college basketball, played a few hands of poker, and, as many do, watched a movie. It came down to either Elf or Crash. I fought hard to avoid Will Ferrel and eventually won out when, while people were arguing, someone slipped it into the DVD player. We watch for maybe twenty minutes and one friend pipes up, "Hey, there are some racial undertones to this movie." We laughed at him. Twenty minutes after that, another friend finally figures out that the movie's set in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, we've been put into a talking mood and start questioning the symbolism of various characters and acts and someone yelled to stop analyzing the movie. I rejoined that this wasn't meant to be a movie you watch and forget about like XXX or any Adam Sandler movie. To not think about this movie would be an insult to those who worked on it.

So, here I am, thinking about the movie. To get this into the clear right now, I come from a small, homogenous town. Racial issues are hardly something I confront on an everyday basis, they're something I see on TV or read about. Neither have I been to L.A. Is the City of Angels really that bad? Do the people really need to 'crash' into each to feel something? I don't know, and I doubt you could get the city itself to agree. But I digress.

Race is certainly the central issue here. You'd be an idiot to miss that, but there's a lot more going on. Human interaction and communication as well as 'the system' and the progression of good and bad acts are major themes I saw in this movie. The Persian shopkeeper can't figure out what the locksmith's trying to tell him and insurance subsequently screws him. The District Attorney has to (though this is certainly debatable and undoubtedly a controversial claim) act extra nice to blacks after his car is stolen by the two kids. Then the car jacker with cornrows lets the Asians in the van go with forty dollars after the director let's him go, even after being offered five hundred dollars for each by the guy who watches Discovery.

What about race then? Looks like a no win situation to me. Some people fill a stereotype like the black carjackers who, though they didn't run with a gang, were basically thugs with personality. Others don't. Boy was the District Attorney's wife wrong about the locksmith, the only completely sympathetic character I found in this movie. The problem is we don't understand one another. Not that understanding helps much. The bigot cop explains his father's situation to Shaniqua but still gets nothing. The District Attorney's wife doesn't want to look racist and gives the two blacks the benefit of the doubt by not turning around like she wants to but ends up getting her car stolen.

You want to take a message from this movie? Here's what I found. Life's a mess because it isn't simple. There are no good or bad people. Only ones we feel sympathy for and ones we don't because everyone has done things to be proud of and things they would rather forget. I don't know how deep or thoughtful that was, but it's true. Oh yeah, and L.A. sucks. Don't ever go there.

On all other counts, I think the movie does an excellent job. The acting is good, the cinematography is good, and the story is simply phenomenal. Still, I don't think I'll watch the movie again except to pick up things I missed the first time like if the second Asian in the cafe was the insurance man or why exactly the young cop couldn't or wouldn't file a report on his jerkwad partner.

1 comment:

Duncan N said...

I thought this was one of the most thought-provoking films I have ever seen - I agree with what you say. My perception of it is that we all have complex lives that sometimes create contradictions and prejudices that we can't handle. The difficult thing is looking past colour and race, and seeing the person behind the face. I don't think it's a film about LA necessarily; policing a city like that must be incredibly difficult. The city itself is a crash of cultures, with many white people resentful of the Hispanics and Asians who are apparently "taking" their jobs. However, I think LA is only used because it is one of many examples of racism contained within a single place. A superb film. Parts were unexpected, yet overall it was dismayingly, predictably true.