Above is lovely music vid for Eastwood’s Gran Torino.
Over the weekend, I had to rewrite my next article for Script. (Editors said it lacked my usual “punch and panache.” Hehehe… Happy to do the rewrites, of course.) The next topic will be on Unsympathetic Protagonists, and it seemed almost serendipitous Gran Torino should get released the same weekend I’m contemplating this subject.
So I included a few words about Eastwood’s film:
As I write these words, Gran Torino was just released, and I loved it. Here is a gun-toting racist sneering at and insulting everyone around him every chance he gets. Nick Schenk’s spec was of course shot down all over Hollywood by “pro readers” who, I’m sure, were filled with visions of lollipops and sympathetic protagonists in their heads. That is, until the spec wound up in the hands of Clint Eastwood, who had the power to turn it into a film. You gotta love Eastwood.
Do we approve of his character’s racial slurs? No. Do we find it funny that a man would be so politically incorrect in social situations? Yes. But you also instinctively know that the movie’s not approving of his racism, either. You know as you watch the film that the story will be about breaking barriers. You know that the main character, Walt Kowalski, will come to accept his neighbors and even fight for them, which is inspiring. But through the act of making this unsympathetic racist the protagonist, we’re shown that there are more sides to him than his racism. We also find value in seeing how people react to his racism, how they refuse to cry over his insults, but stand up to him and prove their worth, much in the same way characters reacted to Archie Bunker on TV. And in a sense, the movie props you up, too, and straightens your back and encourages you to be stronger. Prove your worth. Don’t cower to racism. Break barriers.
I liked what Ebert had to say about Walt’s character: “Walt is not so much a racist as a security guard, protecting his own security.”