Crossing Over

Posted February 25, 2009 in Film

Wayne Kramer’s multi-threaded narrative about ethnically eclectic Los Angeles exists in honor of Crash, if you liked Crash . . . or in fear of it, lest it be dismissed as a knockoff of an already bad film. The parallels are bold: strangers, united only in their diversity, smash up against each other, Asian against Iranian, Caucasian against Mexican, Jewish and Australian and African against The System. Here, the issue isn’t skin color—at least, not overtly—but citizenship status. It’s the very oxygen the characters breathe in; even U.S.-bred Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, and Ray Liotta can’t avoid working in the industry for ill or justice, either as border guards, lawyers, or Green Card pencil pushers. The Nationalization ceremony is here heralded with the fanfare of the best prom day ever. Cliff Curtis, the handsome Maori actor, plays an Iranian who pauses during a convenience store hold up to give a passionate lecture about taking the U.S. oath to a frightened Korean teen. Meanwhile, an Aussi ingénue (Alice Eve) becomes the sex slave of her Green Card savior while her boyfriend (Jim Sturgess) has to fake being a devout Jew in order to get his papers stamped. Across town, a guilt-stricken Ford tries to reunite a deported factory worker (Alice Braga) with the small son she wasn’t allowed to collect, and a Saudi Arabian high schooler named Taslima (Summer Bishil) has taken to wearing the hijab and rationalizing 9/11 hijackers, which triggers the Feds to check her family’s immigration status (it isn’t good). This all sounds a little didactic and a little silly. It is. It’s also highly watchable and manages to be simultaneously complex, simple-minded, and deferential to the audience’s base level of intelligence. As a bonus, the film’s pulse beats out a passion for the real Los Angeles, the cluttered jewel box one people fall in love with after their infatuation with palm trees and Sunset Blvd wears thin. Kramer’s script is less interested in manipulating liberal guilt than it is in bolstering gratitude—and even awe—at one’s luck in clutching a U.S. passport, most of us without even having to cross a border and file years of paperwork. In this humble, patriotic goal, Kramer and his strong cast succeed through sheer sweat of effort; after all, would all these people be putting themselves through hell if living here wasn’t worth it?


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