« The future of U.S.-European relations | Home | Sure, Renee Zellweger Might be Married.... »

May 9, 2005


Crash: suspension of disbelief

Crash scenes

Paul Haggis has written a lot of bad TV in his time: he wrote some episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, and a few failed series in the '90's. His script for Million Dollar Baby last year was the start of a whole new career that will probably be more successful and award-winning than he ever imagined.

His directorial debut is Crash; maybe you've seen the harrowing-looking posters for this movie that all feature screaming people and generally make the movie look agonizing. The themes of the movie--race, class, money, power, and the violent collisions of people who fall along different points on these spectra--are about as tough as movie themes get. All these difficult issues that are at the center of a lot of America's problems are right up there, in your face. Living in a truly multicultural city (and country) is often a mess, and this movie doesn't pretend that it's anything but. It's like a heavy dramatic version of the ingenious song from Avenue Q, "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist".

Whether or not people like this movie seems to depend on how much sentimentalism they can take. Roger Ebert loved it. A.O. Scott didn't. Just like he did in Million Dollar Baby, Haggis loves the big sentimental gestures that sometimes border on the tear-jerker, but I think he mostly pulls it off without getting hokey. There are a whole lot of very sentimental moments, and the intersecting storylines of the ensemble cast rely on wildly implausible coincidences. I think you're better off if you just go with it, like people manage to do without complaining when watching Robert Altman movies, which also center on big coincidences.

A lot of critics are saying that this movie's characters are interesting because they are both good and bad (though A.O. Scott writes, "Mr. Haggis is eager to show the complexities of his many characters, which means that each one will show exactly two sides.") This isn't quite true--all the Latino characters don't really do anything bad, and some of the white characters lean pretty heavily to the all-bad side. What I thought was interesting was all the possibilities that each character goes through in each moment of their big scenes. They might end up doing something heroic or something despicable, but there are many confusing choices that we see them make as they go through these scenes. Some scenes have better outcomes than the audience might have feared, and some end up being much worse. But I was really wrapped in all of it, to the point of mild stomach discomfort, and my very non-wimpy male viewing companion almost cried a few times.

And of course, all the actors are really fantastic. Don Cheadle is so talented and great that, as Norman K. says, I would watch him eating cereal, and I can hardly believe how good Ludacris is. Really.

I don't know anything about L.A., but this was such a good look at how race and class issues play out there that it made me wish Spike Lee would go back to making those kinds of movies about New York again, like Do The Right Thing and Summer of Sam.

categories: Movies, Race
posted by amy at 4:00 PM | #

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)