On my way into a movie, a parking valet decided to woo me: "Hello, beauty. You are going to the movie? I heard it's very good. Some people come out crying. They made it about L.A. A beauty like you should not be going to the movies alone. What is your name? My name is Henry. Maybe when you come out of the movie, I'll see you again. I'll remember your name. Do you remember mine? What is it? Very good, beauty. See you later."
The movie was Paul Haggis' Crash. I hadn't planned to see it until I found out a friend of mine had a role in the film. It was an impressive undertaking, if only a bit too ambitious in its range (touching on everything from racism, the heavy-handed focus, to HMO red tape and bureaucratic corruption). It certainly captured the chrome-encased rage that percolates under the gloss of L.A. Not a real postcard view of Lalaland.
Thandie Newton was a stand-out, although all the acting was great. Props to Sandra Bullock for capturing the quintessential rich L.A. bitch--a proliferating breed. At times the bad news in the storyline seemed relentless in a Grand Canyon way, but Haggis does give one angelic reprieve that was a temporary salve.
In many ways, the overlapping stories, human suffering and continuously ratcheted tension echoed P.T. Anderson's Magnolia. Although less elegant than Anderson's masterpiece, this film had similar emotional crucible moments and replaced falling frogs with almost-as-rare City of Angels snowfall.
The opening dialogue of the film sets the mood perfectly:
"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."