(recommended by Julia)
Crash, rated R, has an all-star cast including Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Ryan Phillippe, and Loretta Devine. To get so many accomplished actors in one film, I figured the screenplay must be pretty good, and I was not disappointed. The film is nominated for best screenplay, and Matt Dillon is nominated for best supporting actor in the upcoming Golden Globe Awards. This was one of the best films I have seen all year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in some of the categories at the Academy Awards.
As the film progressed, I was reminded of Grand Canyon which was released in 1991, as the characters similarly weave in and out of each other’s lives, and both films are are about race relations in Los Angeles. The characters are complex, and just when you think you have one figured out and placed in a category (good or bad), something happens that tests that person and shows them and the viewer that life and the choices they make are not all that predictable.
It is a film about how racial stereotypes, and past history perpetuates hatred between the many cultures that make up Los Angeles: African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic. The characters confront each other about those stereotypes and philosophize to each other about what it means to be a part of a certain race or group. Despite the philosophizing, never does the dialogue sound preachy, although definite points are made.
I don’t want to give away too much of the film, because some of its beauty is from the unexpected that occurs between these people struggling to get through life. However, I will share that the film deals with relationships between the police and Los Angeles citizens. It contrasts African-Americans, some of whom are professionals with respected jobs, who are embarrassed by those of their race who are common thieves. A Hispanic man living a new life away from gang involvement has to calm and comfort his daughter because she is scared of random bullets coming through the house. An Iranian daughter tries to help her father, who has been mistaken for an Arab, even so far as taking him to buy a gun to protect his store.
Those are just some of the characters in Crash, and the actors are amazing. Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon particularly have difficult roles to play and make their interactions so real and believable. I don’t know if this film will help anyone be less prejudiced, but it definitely made me think. It hasn’t been that long ago (less than 40 years) since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and race relations remain a multi-layered and complex issue. As long as thoughtful films like this are being made, it gives me hope that more and more people can learn to understand themselves, and each other, better.