Crash Into Me

Quote of the Day: “Please forgive me/If I act a little strange/For I know not what I do…Feels like lightning running through my veins/Everytime I look at you…” —David Gray, “Please Forgive Me”***

So I finally caught this flick Crash that everyone raved about last year. Even Oprah namechecked it, calling her experience at the Hermes store earlier this year her “Crash Moment”. If one more person rolls up on me and asks what I thought of Crash, I’m gonna explode. So I watched it.

Well. Having thought about it a bit, I guess I can say this much for it: Other than the corny opening monologue of Don Cheadle (basically, peeps don’t “connect” in Los Angeles) to that corny penultimate image of snow falling on Los Angeles; other than some completely telegraphed foreshadowing (the fairy with the bullet-proof cape?) and some uneven character development (Larenz Tate’s car thief, Jennifer Esposito’s detective); other than some awkward ironies that one supposes were supposed to make the movie seem moving in that life-affirming way and some otherwise questionably sophisticated dialogue for Ludacris; and other than the nagging suspicion that the DA played by Brendan Fraser was sleeping with the black woman on his staff…I guess I liked it.

I liked Don Cheadle’s smart, unemotional turn as the black detective distant from his hood-based family; I liked Sandra Bullock as the pampered LA housewife scared into baring her racism for all the world to see; I liked Loretta Devine’s take-no-shit clinic worker—then again, I always like Loretta Devine; I liked William Fichtner telling it like it is and asking Cheadle’s character how he really felt about black folks and crime; I really liked Terrence Howard, who has more charisma in his permed hair than half the “talent” in all of Hollywood.

All that said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t just say what I was really thinking the whole time the flick was running: If Thandie Newton, Terrence Howard, Larenz Tate and Loretta Devine were white they’d be superstars. There’s a Hollywood crime that should be investigated.

Maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age. But: Why wasn’t I as moved by Crash as everyone else seemed to be? Why didn’t the flick feel as definitive as everyone seemed to make it out to be? Was it just that peeps heard all those racist names used outside of BET’s Comic View or a rap record and felt like the words had some other kind of noble and theatrical resonance when used by big Hollywood stars? When Matt Dillon saved Thandie Newton from the burning car…was that noble and heroic or just a cop doing his job? Considering he’d disgustingly felt her up the night before—or was that act just a way of humiliating her husband, the black man? I guess the way that the film showed some of the subtle ways that race gets manipulated in the political sphere were sorta interesting, and the scene between Newton and Howard back at the crib after being violated by the cops had a piquant sharpness you don’t see in a lot of Hollywood flicks.

But there was something missing for me. And then an hour after watching, I realized what it was: It was a film about race, and there were a bunch of black and Asian and Persian characters in it, and it seemed very sensitive toward a minority perspective, and yet it still felt very white. Maybe it’s me.

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***hoagie, grinder, hero…whatever…let’s just go have a shake.

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