Sunday, July 12, 2009
Walt Kowalski's life seems to be changing and falling apart all around him. This is a big problem for Walt, as he's a crotchety old fart who doesn't like change at all. In fact, Walt doesn't like much of anything. He has a handful of friends at the bar, a barber he likes and goes to regularly and then, it's sitting on the porch drinking PBR's with his dog. And, of course, there's his love, his Gran Torino, a car he actually helped build years ago at the Ford plant. Well, his job is gone, his neighbors are almost all gone and his wife has just died. Nothing seems the same and this grumpy guy has just gotten even crankier. The Gran Torino serves as the perfect centerpiece of this movie. It is a car that he works painstakingly to keep in perfect condition and, more importantly, the same condition as when he took it off the line decades ago. You never see him drive this car. He just polishes it. The reason this is important is because it serves as a physical manifestation of Walt's problem, namely, that he's delusionally holding onto some ideal from the past that doesn't really exist and most likely never did. And to make matters worse, some non-white kid actually tries to steal the Gran Torino from him. You see, I mention that the kid's not white because Walt is a bigot, though really he just doesn't like anything different and other races are different. But there comes a moment where he realizes that it's not about where we're from or what language we speak, but how we live our lives. He realizes that he has more in common with the traditional Hmong family next door than he does with people from his church or family. This movie finds him going through the pains of an old dog learning new tricks. He simply must let go of that ideal he has, because, in reality, it's crap and he knows it. This 2008 drama by Clint Eastwood is well shot, well written and, while a simple story, has a depth and richness that makes it really stick with you. It also has a great message, being shallow and petty is a universal language that transcends ethnicity, but, lucky for us, so are other attributes like being honorable and just.