My husband and I went to see the movie Gran Torino on Saturday. I have to admit that I was skeptical about this being “my” kind of movie. The Dirty Harry movies of Clint Eastwood’s past didn’t really entice me to see this one either. I am happy to report that, despite my initial uncertainty, I gave this movie two thumbs up.
Eastwood plays Walter Kowalski, a rude, racist, life-worn Korean war vet who has just lost his wife and has a strained relationship with his two adult sons. He is disgruntled with the changing face of his aging neighborhood, and particularly unhappy with the Hmong families who have moved in.
When Walt’s neighbor’s son, Thao, attempts to right the wrong of trying to steal Walt’s prized 1973 Gran Torino as a gang initiation rite, Walt’s true colors emerge. He ultimately befriends Thao and his sister, Sue, and attempts (in his rude, racist, grumpy way) to better their lives and his.
This is not a feel-good, hug-the-person-sitting-next-to-you sort of movie. Parts of it are both funny and poignant at the same time, but it has a very genuine feel to it. I felt that the characters were very believable and Eastwood portrayed true problems that immigrant families face as well as the sad results of gang violence.
I think part of what made this movie so interesting to me is that it was set in SE Michigan, specifically Highland Park (where, incidentally, my father grew up). Although this movie could have been set in any older US city, the plight of aging neighborhoods is a reminder to all of us here in Michigan how our state is changing. The downturn of the economy has made the poor even poorer.
Despite its sadness, Gran Torino is ultimately about hope. It’s about making peace with your life and trying to better what you can. It’s so thought provoking that I have been contemplating it non-stop for two days.
Go ahead, make my day… be sure to see it soon.