Monday, May 09, 2005


Yesterday, I went to see the movie Crash. The primary draw for me was the fact that this is a movie with a huge ensemble cast, and the characters sort of pass through each others' lives as time passes, much like in Magnolia, a film I loved so much it's made me partial to any of these big cast movies, such as PT Anderson's Boogie Nights, or Robert Altman's Nashville, both of which are also excellent films.

Crash isn't as good as either of those two films, but that doesn't mean it's not a really good film, it's certainly worth seeing. What makes this film different than those films is there is a stronger thematic connetion between the interactions in this film, all of them are built around race in some way. So, the film takes characters who are sort of racial archetypes and plays around with our perception of them. For example, we see a white woman who is suspicious of a Hispanic locksmith who she says looks like a gang member, then it turns out that he is in fact a devoted family man, trying to make a better life for his daughter.

The thing that holds the film back from greatness is in some respects its short running time. We don't really get to know that many of the characters, so it's difficult to get really emotionally involved with them. The amazing thing about Magnolia is the fact that all nine of the characters are so well developed, and none of them fall into archetypes. Almost all the characters here are in some way archetypal, but I think that might have been intentional. The goal is to show the conflict people have with other races and with their own racial status, but that turns the film into a more intellectual exercise than an emotional one. I think a critical thing to making these big cast movies work on an emotional level is to connect them through the score and, while the music here is good, it doesn't work like in The Hours or Magnolia to bring to mind the universal similarities of all the characters.

But, this film still has a ton of interesting stuff going on. I was really surprised to see that the best performance in this film was by Ludacris, who was really entertaining, and nicely in the character. He probably best exemplifies the difference between what someone says and how they act, which is the core of this film.

The crowd I was at with this film didn't really seem to like it, practically everyone was gone before the final shot even ended. This is one thing I don't get when people go to the movies, are you in so much of a hurry to get out of there that you can't even stay until the credits start? I like to give the film a minute or so after the credits start before I leave just to let it sink in. It shouldn't be a race out of the theater, the real world will still be there no matter how long you stay in the theater.

I dont' mean to sound critical of the film, since on the whole, it's a thought provoking, really well made piece of entertainment. Too many times when you go to a movie, you leave with a sort of empty feeling, like nothing of substance occurred. This film has a lot of substance and leaves you fulfilled. It's the sort of film 70s Hollywood was famous for, smart, complex entertainment.

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