Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What's On Netflix?: CRASH

Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans. This week's selection is the racially-charged drama... CRASH.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. There are a few things that will cause me to reject a movie out of hand. One of them is the tagline, that little one-sentence bit of flavor text that you find on a movie poster that's meant to convey something about the movie. If a movie poster has a tagline that I find exceptionally corny, it doesn't matter what kind of movie it is; I'll walk away and not give it a second thought. That's just how I respond to movie advertising.

Crash had that problem for me when it was released. IMDb lists four different taglines for this movie, none of which are particularly compelling, but in my area we got the worst of the bunch: "Live your life at the point of impact." This tagline is both trite and meaningless, and has the added insult of sounding like a cat poster bromide, besides. So I never watched it, until today. And now I see that Crash was disserved by a sanitized advertising campaign, Best Picture Oscar win or no. Because it's a movie that everyone should see, especially today.

Crash follows a diverse group of people in the Los Angeles area over a 36-hour period and the way their lives intersect in greater and lesser ways over that time. And the story is just that mundane. There are no grand developments in the course of this movie. These are not ordinary people living in extraordinary times. For each of them, the details of their individual stories over the course of this film notwithstanding, this is just another day in the life, and that's the point. In the case of Crash, plot is observed as necessity, because Crash is focused on its message.

That message can be easy to miss. To the casual viewer, this picture may come across as though it should have been titled White People Suck: The Movie, because you will see a goodly amount of white people being generally lousy to non-white people. But pay closer attention, and other details start to emerge. Nobody's being particularly kind to anyone. The first act of rudeness we see is a Hispanic woman mocking a Chinese woman's accent. A black man, who has spent the last few minutes railing against how white people instantly assume he's a criminal when they first see him, turns out to be a car thief. Crash challenges your perceptions and your standards in this way for the first half, though not everything is more than it appears. Many of the interactions that will occur between the characters have an objective right side and wrong side, which plays into the film's second half. Relationships are flipped, and characters will be forced to view the situations of others from a different perspective. Some will learn from their experiences; some will not.

At the beginning of this review, I called Crash a "racially-charged drama", and that isn't incorrect. Race plays a big part of the story. But here's the thing: Crash is trying to make a point about race relations that we've all forgotten lately, the point that it's all our problem. Yes, there are great sins in the past; a character alludes to the 9/11 attacks, but I'm sure you can think of others. No, not everyone had a direct hand in any one of them. But we still need to treat each other like human beings. Crash does not advocate on behalf of any one group. Labeling group A as the Villain, and group B as the Victims, serves no one, since no group is entirely evil, and no group is truly blameless in the state of the world today. Crash is not about groups or "communities", Crash is about people. And when you get past the tribal mentality we've all been sold lately, that's what you're left with. It wouldn't fix everything, and it wouldn't yield great returns right away, but this would still be a better world if everyone would cut everyone else a little slack.

Crash makes an important point that is sadly overlooked today. In a sea of voices screaming about who owes who what and why, Crash challenges us instead to think about how we interact with the people we meet, because that's where the change will begin, if things are to change at all.

Crash is rated R for language, sexual content and some violence.

Robert's Score: 9/10

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