David Cronenberg's Crash made me want to throw up, emotionally. That doesn't mean it's a bad film, but it's not usually a compliment to say "it was very well-made, but the characters were ugly and troubling in an unchallenging way, and I never want to see it again."
Not everything or everyone is meant to be liked. Not everything or everyone intends to be liked, at some time or another. A smart, experienced person should be able to tell when they're in these situations, and judge matters accordingly. That's art - and life.
James (James Spader) is a film producer. He and his wife, Catharine (Deborah Kara Unger) seem to have lost their passion for each other, tho they do spend a lot of time screwing their many various lovers. Then they get into a car crash with another married couple.
Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter) is the wife of the other driver. Her hubby is killed in the wreck, but she's more or less okay, as is Catharine. James, meanwhile, is less bothered by his need for a brief hospital stay than by a moment that's more pivotal to him: when he saw Helen climbing out of her wrecked car, one of her breasts popped loose from her blouse as she unbuckled herself. Soon, James begins an affair with Helen, and she introduces him to Vaughan (Elias Koreas), an artist/cult leader type who restages famous car accidents that for crash fetishists.
Then, life goes from kinda creepy and skeevy to definitely creepy and skeevy and insane. These folks are turned on by wrecks, and danger - hell, James' accident happened because by Helen was screwing her husband. Now, everybody starts f--king everyone else, and we follow folks who see danger, violence, and injury as a massive turn on. Seriously, at one point, SPOILER ALERT, Spader screws a large wound on Rosanna Arquette's leg. Holy f--k.
As you can imagine, the movie was divisive, especially after taking the Special Jury Prize at Cannes (among other awards). Critics either praised the film as daring and original or called it vile trash. All of those responses, however, were a little dumb, because: firstly, as I mentioned above, art can depict things without endorsing them, like a thought experiment or challenging a norm.
Worse still, David only directed and wrote the screenplay. Crash is based on a book by JG Ballard, who actually f--king named the lead character "James Ballard." Any ill critique and controversy should've stuck to the source material, and simply judged DC's work as a production of that story. These critics, then, were pretty unprofessional, and uneducated.
What struck me the most about the movie is that James and Catharine are, from scene 1, deeply-messed up - and unappealing. They're pretty enough to get sex a lot, but they actually display zero charm, which is weird to witness, as they're both sociopaths and nymphomaniacs. Sorry for TMI, but having sex too seldom brings my mood down. If I can't get it, tho, I can survive that.
This couple, however, is compelled to keep hitting the pleasure button all the time. They can't survive without, I'm assuming, filling the emotional void within themselves by banging other folks. So they don't decide to write or exercise or work on their problems when they can't get sex easily - they just look for new ways to get off. The film has a supreme focus on these unenviable characters, and it shows in the slow way that it follows them all - the camera is virtually a stalker.
As you can imagine, watching people like this discover a deadly and rather nasty - and worst of all, violent - fetish is a very unpleasant experience. But: the actors are all better than great ,with material that can be genuinely challenging; the movie looks beautiful, despite the events it shows; the musical compositions by Howard Shore are just excellent. And, in the end, Mr. Cronenberg will always be an amazing director, so his work deserves attention and respect, regardless of whether or not I "like" the result.
It's not always meant to be likeable. Nor supposed to be.
that's been a theme of this director for decades.
It is weird and sort of sickening to watch all these different people, virtually a bunch of horny robots, mix together like a bunch of spilled cans of paint. Here, at least, they really do resemble some odd sort of traffic accident: limbs and hair and hands and skin compressed against each other, even if everything they're feeling is turned back onto themselves - a destructive and utterly-narcissistic sex addiction. And this last part means that Cronenberg hit the same general subject matter as Steve McQueen would, more than a decade later, in 2011's Shame.
But skipping this movie also means you'd miss a unique performance in Ms. Hunter's career, as well as a rare chance to see Koteas and Unger with more central roles than they often have. As for Spader, I'm a biased judge; all I can say is that he does his thing well here. And whether you enjoy the experience of DC's film or not, it might give you a lot to think about, as surely as Shame did for some.
Not me, of course, save how repulsive or compulsive some folks can be. I took a great sex course in college, and it gave me all the tools to have a very healthy attitude about sexuality. I'm just saying that I don't like the movie, despite recognizing that it's meant to be unlikeable, in some ways.
A smart, experienced person should be able to tell... and judge matters accordingly. That's art - and life.