Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Of Gran Torinos and Aging Backwards

We don't do movie reviews. But I'm going to do a movie review anyway. Take the money you were planning to spend to see Timothy Buttons (or whatever his name is) grow younger for three hours that seems like a week and spend it on watching Clint Eastwood mumble and snarl his way through Gran Torino. My wife and I saw the Buttons thing last Friday night and, about 45 minutes into the movie, he was still an old man. About an hour in, I found myself hoping he would die soon or at least that there would be a car chase or some kind of action. Unfortunately, it would take another two hours for him to regress to infancy and finally die backwards. Okay -- so that might be a spoiler. You knew he was going to die, though, didn't you? And I really don't think it is possible to spoil that movie.

On the other hand, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino is a gem -- a must see for guys and my wife even liked it. Now I have to warn you, his character is a foul-mouthed bigot. In fact, the R rating comes mostly from some really bad language in the movie -- evidently crusty old war veterans, Hispanic, Black and Hmong street gangs don't say, "Doggone it!" very much at all. Don't take your kids! However, if there ever were some claim that a film required bad language to be taken seriously, it would probably be legit here. Street gangs don't talk nice. At least they didn't when I was accosted by a gang selling drugs back in the late 60s, and I don't think they've cleaned up their act a whole lot since.

I digress. Disclaimers due to bad language aside, there is much to value in this movie. You have a war vet curmudgeon who hates the fact that his neighborhood is changing, that his neighbors are Hmong, and that he has lost his wife. You have a very young priest trying to minister to a guy who doesn't want any part of his ministry. And you have an immigrant family trying to make it in a new world. And you have conversions -- maybe not conversions to Christianity but conversions in the way people think and view each other. And finally -- and I've saved the best for last -- you have some pretty interesting Christian imagery/symbolism. I'm not going to do a spoiler here, but I think your men's group could talk about the end of the movie for a long time -- especially as it relates to Christianity and being a man.

A movie with Clint Eastwood and a shiny, classic Ford Gran Torino has to be a guys' movie! And the bonus -- it's not set in LA or New York!

Have you seen it? What do you think?


Rev. Stephen DeMik said...

As a young pastor (27) who just served his vicarage in Detroit (location of Gran Torino), I felt like I could relate easily to the young pastor who is asked to care for an elderly, grumpy, and down-right ornery old man who doesn't want anything to do with him.
In addition to this, I actually drove on one of the streets they showed in the movie (Charlevoix) every day on my way to my vicarage congregation (Historic Trinity), and when I was in a car accident on that road in the snow, the cops there told me 'this was not the safest part of Detroit'.

True, this is a rough movie. But it's also one that men should be interested in checking out.

Anonymous said...

I have known men who were a lot like the Character portrayed by Eastwood and the movie held my and my wife's attention right to the end. We discussed it for several days. It is well worth your time.

Anonymous said...

Ouch.... It's "Gran Torino"

Pastor John Austin said...

I'm afraid that I need to express some discomfort at encouraging folks to see a movie that's remarkable for its foul language. I understand that language represents reality and we are "in the world." However, to encourage fellow Christians to seek entertainment that is spiked with vulgarity and blasphemy seems awfully contradictory to God's direction. Some things that come to mind are conforming to the world (Romans 12:2); putting away filthy language (Col 3:8); and thinking about what is pure (Philippians 4:8).
What a prude I am!

The Layman said...

Pastor John Austin. On the flip -side I was thinking when I saw the old and new movies of Martin Luther each one helped me understand the life and times and the personal anguish that led Luther to "do his thing" for all of us. I had also read "Here I Stand by Ronald Bainton, but the new Luther brought more understanding as did "The Passion" released a few years ago. I did want to see Gran Torino, so now I suppose I'll have to get er' done!

Anonymous said...

We saw the movie this past weekend, and we both thought it was powerful. Yes, it was awful to hear the language, but after awhile I tried to tune that out and really think about the changes that were taking place. Change is always happening, and we as Christians must decide to work with the changes that are good, and fight the changes that are against God. Ignorance may be easier, but it is not good. I have not really enjoyed most of Clint's movies, but this one had value.

Pastor John said...

I saw the movie. Yes, the language was colorful and in some respect must be put into context. However, the relationships that developed and character which were expressed by the honor Eastwood's character sought to give and was received by him have value in our selfish greed driven world. It was good to see how the crusty concern of this one man changed lives.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself a conservative wife, mother and grandmother under 50. I went with my husband to see this movie.
While I disliked the language, it was a good movie and the ending is superb and a good lesson for all of us!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I went to see it, and thought it was a great movie. The language was a bit much, but the story was awesome. We had just visited the Hmong villages in Thailand so it was especially moving. After the movie was over, no one got up till the credits were over, both my husband and I had teary eyes.