Yesterday I reviewed The Life Aquatic, a movie some critics – and Blogcritics.org members – loved but left me feeling seasick with frustration. It was ultimately like going fishing and catching no fish.
Today I thought I’d opine on the opposite experience I had with the movie Crash, a movie I know some hated based on the many sites that listed it as one of the worst movies of the year.
I beg to differ. It probably helped that I saw the movie while visiting Southern California, an experience that always reminds me of being in the L.A. area as the race riots broke out after the Rodney King verdicts were announced.
The movie is about race, discrimination, and stereotypes. Just about every character is flawed in belief ,with at least one stereotype of other races. A white woman thinks a Hispanic man with tattoos is a gang banger. The white cops don’t trust black men. All Asian characters are referred to as Chinese. And the list goes on.
The movie’s plot devices connecting multiple story lines and characters is what turns off some viewers, such as Slate’s David Edelstein. There is also the feeling of being patronized or, as Edelstein puts it, “It’s hard to feel morally elevated when you’re also feeling talked down to.”
But I am so excited about the reach, the attempts made, by the writer of this film to overlook such problems. Roger Ebert, in his review, took a similar position.
It’s worth noting that the movie’s writer/director, Paul Haggis, also wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, another movie which wrestles with difficult issues in an intelligent way.
The movie tends to spark good discussions about race and how the characters in the movie – as in real life – have redeeming qualities making it harder to determine if a white cop, for example, can still be racist if he helps a black woman in distress.
I plan to use this movie for a film discussion I lead once I’ve watched it again. The mere fact I’m watching it twice demonstrates just how much I liked it.
In short, some think Crash is one big pile-up, repeatedly pointing out the obvious: We all hold some prejudices. While I agree that we all have prejudices, the movie’s handling of how those stereotypes affect our lives and attitudes and actions is fascinating and well worth exploring.
If you like thought-provoking, interesting story telling, this movie is deserving of your attention. Some questions you have about the movie will be answered in the commentary available on the DVD. Enjoy.