I have come to a new life’s goal after seeing Gran Torino:
I want to be (the female version of) Clint Eastwood’s
character, Walt Kowalski, when I grow old.
He’s the unapologetic jerk who hates the kids today, his family,
whom he feels disconnected from, and the entire human population.
He chain-smokes and drinks beer on his front porch with his dog.
(He’s also a complete racist, not something I wanted to adopt,
just so we’re clear.)
The most important characteristic is, he’s an amalgamation
of Clint Eastwood’s characters from over the years, just transported
to a crappy neighborhood in our time. Considering the movie culminates
in a stand-off between Kowalski and a Hmong gang in a front yard
that could have easily been transported into A Fistful of Dollars
with a few casting changes, I think Eastwood may have been channeling
his mythic self, if that being ever actually uttered the phrase,
“Get off my lawn!” He’s the cowboy come back to
claim the ghetto, so to speak.
Thankfully, the movie avoids most other clichés that could
have ensnared it. Kowalski’s relationship with the Hmong family
who live next door certainly starts off surly and moves to sweet,
but thankfully it wasn’t through the plucky Sue (Ahney
Her). It’s instead through her brother Thao, who
tries to steal Kawalski’s prized, mint-condition 1972 Gran
I say the movie avoids most other clichés because Kowalski’s
actual family is full of clichés. His granddaughter is a
snotty brat who shows her midriff during his wife’s funeral,
and his children insult him by buying him large button phones and
suggesting that he be moved into a home. It’s been done before,
but it’s saved by two things: the hilarious dialogue, and
Eastwood’s spot-on expression and old-man growls when confronted
with these people.
The movie is funny most of the way through—thanks largely
to dialogue you’ll probably (because of political correctness)
feel guilty about laughing at later. But when it becomes serious
it hits you like a sucker punch. The message isn’t clouded
by the humor though, and unlike Eastwood’s other recent directorial
stints, it doesn’t completely lose you in the heartbreak of
the situation either.
This movie deserves the Golden Globe nods, and I can foresee Eastwood
getting another Oscar nomination or two in the next month for his
aging cowboy story.
— Chelsea Stark