My roommate cursed at me the other day. He really liked Crash, apparently. I was busy watching the audio commentary, as I often do when I want to delve further into a particular movie. I probably shouldn't, seeing as it gives me the filmmaker's or some academic's ideas of the movie before I can develop my own, so their impressions influence mine (hence the word 'impression'). But the key is, I was still mulling over it. The film had a bit to offer, and of course I was busy comparing it to Altman's work (specifically Short Cuts) and Magnolia (one of my all time faves). The comparisons may be fair, to say the least, since they were obvious influences, as my man Adam had noted awhile ago in a since defunct web review.
But I was beginning to worry. Not that the movie would be heavy-handed (yeah, racism is bad, but it's hard to overplay that theme to me), but that it would be heavy at the end, with no hope in sight. Still thinking of the ending, I don't trust the near-happy ending we were given, when the slaves were set free by the black man (not-so-handily played by the usually telegenic Ludacris, of course. But more on that later).
Trying to tackle the issue of racism (or sexism, or classism) in America is not easy, and probably shouldn't be left to well-to-do white males. Many, in fact, would argue that it's an impossible piece to tackle in entertainment, others would argue that the arts have an obligation for social issues and that the arts are the perfect place to do so. Anyway, enough Social Sciences 101, Jr. High edition.
The problem is that I saw that Million Dollar Baby nihilism a year ago, by the same screenwriter that also directed this movie. And I was wondering if Crash would end in such a cynical way. One can argue that that is the only way to end such a movie, such crashes/conflicts happening, as Don Cheadle's character deadpans at the beginning, because people are in such need of contact in the impersonal city.
Some lines though - and though this is a narrative, it is an interpersonal narrative, thereby putting the focus on interactions, not structure - grab attention, such as the aforementioned. The latino locksmith's integrity (and affiliations) being questioned by the DA's wife after they got carjacked by a couple of black men in a rant at the husband within ear-range - heck, eye-range - of the locksmith. The gun-seller refusing to give a gun to a Persian store owner - and then calling him Osama and blaming him for 9/11 - because he doesn't know much English, yet begrudgedly selling it to his angry, English-speaking and beautiful daughter. And of the observations that the car-jackers make, my favorite - and the most humorously ironic line in a movie I've heard in a bit was something like (forgive my liberal paraphrasing), "Rap? Don't listen to that stuff, man. It's a tool from the white man. See, in the sixties, we had all these literate, powerful, articulate men. Men like Malcolm, Huey Newton, King... But what happened to them? The CIA and FBI hunted them down. And now, in their place we've got these illiterate mumblers all over the radio rapping about nothing." That line was from Ludicris. I'm glad he has a good sense of humor in his role of contemporary black life. Maybe now 50 could be a little more aware of his impact... no, wait, it's too late for that, isn't it?
So, is it a good movie? I'm still mulling over that. Probably more positive than negative. One thing that I took from the film is that everyone understood fully their little world, their own frustrations and pains, their rage, their bitterness, how they've been attacked by others and probably how they plan on fighting back. I guess empathy is being preached, as well as education, and tolerance, and freedom. All good things, but how you gonna feed some newly freed slaves on twenty bucks?
I guess the US government should have answered that question a hundred and forty years ago.
*Apologies to the Beatles. More or less.