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Gran Torino: The Best of 2008

January 17, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Been seeing previews for Gran Torino and it looked like a cross between Million Dollar Baby andDirty Harry. The early trailers weren’t doing much for me, but then the secondary trailers had some nice plot development and intrigue. I was more interested in catching MILK or The Reader today, but something drew me to this movie. And you know what that was? It was the BEST MOVIE OF 2008.

Yes, I declared this now. The nominees aren’t out yet even, and I am usually more reserved in my reviews. I just can’t be that reserved here. I literally walked out of the film and wanted to sit in the car and sob. Sob like a little baby.

We know Eastwood is good. He’s always been good, although his gravely voice was off putting (much like Bale’s in another much hyped film). In this film Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a Korean war veteran, who’s stuck in back a 1/2 century. His wife recently died, his self-absorbed sons and grand children just suck, and the catholic priest is played by a boy (Christopher Carley) who looks like he just got his driver’s license, although through his tenacity the audience can’t help but want to pinch his cheeks by the second hour in. Eastwood’s gravely snarl is punctuated by the Hmong people who’ve overtaken most of his Detroit suburb. Ever Asian racial slur you could imagine is used by Eastwood in this film and the man sitting next to me scoffing at everyone one were both quite bothersome. It felt overdone to a fault (no I do not hear people actually talk like this anywhere.)

Eastwood saves the life of Thao (Bee Vang) from a local gang and begins to teach the boy to be a man. Thao bugs the hell out of me, not because he’s a “wimp” so much than his mannerisms, haircut (which he could’ve easily changed in a hilarious barber shop scene!), and fact that his true transformation never really comes to fruition except at the very end of the film (and that’s even a week show of it).

I understand this is an Eastwood vehicle all around (included his real life sons), but , for me, Thao’s sister, Sue, stole the show! Introduced as the youngest in a house of women and the older, bossy (well meaning) sister of Thao, Sue is the vehicle who brings the racist and reluctant Walt into the Hmong culture, her home and her people. Ahney Her playing Sue has never acted before, but I was surprised at how refreshingly she holds her own through her seamless banter with one of the most talented actors of his generation. Typically, I am writing these reviews after nominations have been released, and I have no idea if Her will even receive a nod, but here I assert she deserves the nod. Now, for some, being nominated (especially in a first role), is the reward itself, and we both know that Her’ll be up against some talented and experienced actresses. If nominated, I fear she will not win.

Gran Torino
Linktribution

Spoilers….Now earlier I mentioned that I sobbed in the end. True. Totally true. This hardass who beats a Hmong gang member, shoves his fists through glass windows, and pokes guns at asians and blacks alike, would be expected to seek out retribution in the same manner as he lived his life through the film. This wasn’t true. This isn’t how it ended. He made a decision for his new family and friends, made good with his dead wife and her priest, and found peace in salvation through his sacrifice of himself for Thao & Sue.

The ’72 Gran Torino that Eastwood never drives in the film weaves itself through the narrative as a harken back to a time when Walt worked for Ford (and put the drive shaft in on the line himself), an american car company, when his wife was alive and his sons weren’t as self-absorbed as they’ve become. Back to a time before when American was “American”. As Walt progressed, developed, and opened himself to Thao, Sue, and his neighbors, the Gran Torino became a symbols of manhood of Thao (who was given permission to take it for his first date) ad a rite of passage for him, as he is given this car, by Walt, in his will at the resolution of the film.

Sue’s simple survival of the rape and beating, Thao’s slow progression to manhood and succession, the priest’s realization of what living and dying really means, brings together a neighborhood, a people, and everything that Walt once felt stratified his neighborhood and his contemporary and disgusting life. A life that he finally lived for those around him, who he came to love.


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