No one has a voice like Clint Eastwood. A movie would have to be really horrible to out-weigh this man’s incredible voice. Understand, this strong vocal bias is coming from a gal whose voice has distinguished her since second grade.
Even if the out-of-this-world vocal stylings are coming in the form of a secluded, grieving, senile, deeply racist old man, I’m still waiting through the entire movie to justify my affinity for him. And in this self-directed, self-produced movie, Mister Eastwood didn’t let me down. He surprised and taught me on so many levels.
Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, whose wife dies early in the movie and who’s stubborn as hell all the way until the end. Talk about negative first impressions – this is all we know about the old man at first. He likes his dog, has a mint condition Gran Torino in the garage and is self-sufficient to a fault. He won’t let the preist call him “Walt,” correcting him with harsh reprimand each and every time. When the Asian neighbors move in, his character reveals even more blemishes and failures. He’s racist beyond even the extent of my grandparently generation – more than anyone I think I’ve met in real life. Not afraid to stand behind his prejudices, it takes Mr. Kowalski the entire movie to learn the truth behind some jaded assumptions.
If the change happened too fast, I wouldn’t buy it – and neither would you. This is the fault of Hollywood too often. There’s a clever beginning and a spectacular end, but no one writes the details into the middle. Dr. J has taught me more than any professor I’ve ever had that the journey really IS what matters.
And in Gran Torino, the journey does matter. The end – true – will surprise you, illustrating with beautiful strokes the true change that has taken root in the old man’s heart, and even raising some ethical questions (always good.) But the journey, still, is what will break your heart, satisfy the Truth inside you, and reflect this world as best the screen can.
I would label Gran Torino “a thinker,” and urge you to see it. It’s a fantastic film for post-viewing discussion. And though it doesn’t break my Top Five, I’ve conveyed the high bar to acheive such an honor, so no shame in that. Result: Near Miss.