For my second entry for Wendell‘s Against the Crowd Blogathon, I’m writing about a movie that most people love but I really hate. That movie is of course Paul Haggis’s racism drama Crash. Now if you ask most people what the worst movie to win Best Picture is they’ll probably say Crash. Despite this though, Crash has a score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and a rating of 7.9 on IMDb which shows it’s greatly liked by both critics and average moviegoers.
Crash follows the several stories about race, class, family and gender in Los Angeles in the aftermath of 9/11. Characters include a district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his casually prejudiced wife (Sandra Bullock), dating police detectives Graham (Don Cheadle) and Ria (Jennifer Esposito), a victimized Middle Eastern store owner and a wealthy African-American couple (Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton) humiliated by a racist traffic cop (Matt Dillon).
When Crash came out, two things about the film were greatly praised; (1) it’s a very accurate depiction of racism and (2) it’s a very well-constructed film. I honestly don’t know if I saw the same film as those people because Crash’s depiction of racism is perhaps the most black-and-white depiction of racism ever put on screen. I’m not the first one to say this but this movie is literally a power-point representation of racism. It’s frustrating how little it explores it’s central theme considering the fact that it aims to cover multiple facets of racism. American History X, La Haine and Do the Right Thing are great movies about racism, Crash barely scratches the surface. The only thing I could take away from this movie was, ‘Racism is bad’ and really that’s all this movie tells you.
And as for Crash’s narrative structure, it isn’t anything new. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Amores perros (also centered around a car crash) are films that were both released before Crash and employed a similar narrative structure of interconnected stories but the only difference is that they’re both far better films than Crash.
But when I boil it all down my biggest problem with this movie remains the writing, which by-the-way got Haggis an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The writing is nothing more than contrived, sentimental garbage. The dialogue feels artificial and every character in this film is nothing more than a stereotypical plot-device. From Matt Dillon’s racist cop to the ‘victimized Middle-Eastern store owner’, I found it impossible to care for any of the characters in the film because they simply don’t feel like real characters, no matter how much effort the actors put into their performances. And then of course Haggis makes the ham-fisted attempt to make you care for the bad people in the movie by giving them all a redeemable quality at the end and suddenly it’s okay for them to have done all the bad shit they did earlier. It just doesn’t work because you don’t care enough about them in the first place.
Crash is a movie that’s pretentious in the worst way, if you call a Terrence Malick film pretentious you might actually be wrong because while his films may come across as being pretentious they’re likely to have an underlying theme that you didn’t explore or one that didn’t connect with you, in Crash’s case it goes out of it’s way to gain your sympathy, the tagline of this movie is: ‘Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other’, WTF does that even mean? And it’s central message is one that fails on every level, so really what’s the point of this film if it can’t even hit home while carrying such an important message?