Monday, January 19, 2009

Gran Torino: "Wasps' Nest? That's Terrible."

... And in the end Clint Eastwood sings as young Thao drives alongside the strait of Lake Erie with the elderly man's dog, off to no one knows where, a chillingly goofy moment in a silly sweet film.

The title quote is sarcastically growled by Eastwood, and I think it does a fine job summarizing the film as a whole. It was a goofy movie. Not as serious as I expected, but not irreverant enough to have left me unhorrified by some of the senseless violence, and well-replicated common racism that actually plagues our fine land, the U.S.A.

The growling of the Eastwood got to be a bit much at times. I know: He's a cantakerous old man who doesn't much care for the way the world is running these days. His grand-daughter's right-out-there navel is baffling and upsetting for him. People talking at his wife's funeral isn't as off-putting for him as the whipper-snapper priest's take on life v. death. The Hmong from the Far East living next door couldn't irritate him more, for their flashy parties, unkempt lawns, and violent gangs.

Of course, by the end of the movie he has managed to make peace with the Asian American culture that clashes so thoroughly with his own, if not with the impoliteness and general brattiness of all American culture. He's also managed to become a Christ figure. A really apparent, obvious one at that. It wasn't a bad thing, just uber-noticable.

One thing I learned from this film is the Hmong are naturally gifted at acting poorly. If I were allowed to pinpoint exactly where this movie went wrong, and I am, I'd say it was the acting of Thao (Bee Vang), which was unrivaled by the tour-de-force of bad acting from his sister Sue (Ahney Her). "Shut up, stupid". What teenage girl says that? Without a Valley girl accent, I mean. Give her a line, and she will gladly strip it of any and all believability, and dignity. I guess the acting is a reflection of the directing on Eastwood's part, but seeing what he's been able to pull off in the past, I'm wondering just how much of this he was responsible for.

Terrible, terrible acting aside, "Gran Torino" was a pretty good film. I thought it was shot near-flawlessly, and pleasing for the eyes, by Tom Stern, the director of photography for other Eastwood-directed films "Mystic River", "Million Dollar Baby", and all those war pieces that came out in '06. Everything technical was quite nice, and the story wasn't bad, if not always executed so hotly. I laughed audibly at some of the dialogue, when it was and wasn't appropriate, but again, I mostly blame the acting for this.

"Gran Torino" taught me the importance of putting aside prejudices, and of becoming a man in my own right. I wish Clint Eastwood all the best of luck with his future ventures. I know "Changeling" didn't do as well as people hoped, but I hear word that his next project is a Nelson Mandela biopic, co-starring Matt Damon. One can only hope Mandela will be handled by Damon.
- Eric T. Voigt, Growls at the Teens Any Old Time

No comments:

Post a Comment