Why is it that actors are so much of a fussy bunch of people that they feel the need to write, direct, star in, whilst having their hand in the musical score? Clint Eastwood is one of these people and surprisingly has become a noteworthy director. Unfortunately I am still very apprehensive when he directs himself. I fear that a great deal of objectivity is lost in the process.
With this in mind then, how does Gran Torino hold up against the “actor wants to do every job” complex? Admittedly Clint Eastwood didn’t do everything in the film. He merely directed, produced, help write the theme tune
and starred in it (anyone see any resemblance to Dennis Waterman?)
Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbour, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.
Gran Torino on paper sounds very much like your stereotypical “I want an Oscar” type film
. Soon into it though, you realise that the story and performances in it, are not polished enough for awards. This is not a bad thing as at this time of year we all get a bit vexed with the plethora
that hits the cinema. You'd think that with a title named after a car and Clint Eastwood on the cover, Gran Torino would be a "angry old man teaches young boy how to drive like an idiot round town whilst winning the race, the girl and beating the bad guys
" film. However all is not as it seems because despite being named in the title, the car plays a very small part in the film
Clint Eastwood plays a very grumpy old man
(a role that suits him) who has just lost his wife. Whilst growling incessantly and referring to everyone by their un-politically correct title, his character is something of a quandary. When Eastwood gets introduced to his neighbours
(through a break-in) though, this grumpiness plays for laughs as he moans about everyone and everything. Strangely, the dynamic between him and Thao (Bee Vang) isn’t as good as his dynamic with Sue (Ahney Her). Nevertheless the tone is set well and it is very enjoyable to watch in an About Schmidt
So the comic abilities of Eastwood work very well indeed and keep the story running. However, this is where it all falls apart. The story takes place amongst gang recruitment and although he attempts to act accordingly, somehow Eastwood doesn’t pull this off as efficiently. I don’t believe it is to do with his inabilities as an actor (because I don’t think he is unable) but more to do with the fact that he lost objectivity as a director whilst starring in it.
This is a great shame as if the more serious scenes were better played this would be an extremely good film. This is one time when Eastwood should have hired a director. Surely there is someone out there that he respects enough to do the job? With a different director this could have been quite excellent, but as it is, it just shows that actors should stay in front of the camera and directors should stay behind it.
As a powerful emotional film it fails but as a tale about a grumpy old man it works. When it works, it really works well and overall I enjoyed Gran Torino. I don’t honestly believe that this is a film that Eastwood wanted to make for an Oscar. It looks like a story that he wanted to be heard. I would encourage you to enjoy it as I did. I still don’t understand the Golden Globe nomination for best original song though!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5