Saturday, October 30, 2021

Movie Reviews: Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes
directed by Roger Michell
This smartly written older film had two leads, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck who each turned in powerful performances. 
Changing Lanes initially masquerades as a road rage movie. It's really a morality play that examines the choices we make and how those decisions impact us all.
Changing Lanes is not explicitly a Christian movie but I think that it takes the best of Christian precepts, or moral precepts that anyone can accept, and applies those to everyday life. As the title suggests we can all change our path. 
If you are only familiar with Samuel L. Jackson from his more bombastic roles this film could remind you of what a versatile actor he is. 
This movie makes you think. I appreciated that the film showed how swiftly even the best of men or women--which the characters are not--could be pushed to a moral precipice. It's what happens next that defines the kind of person we are and/or want to be. 
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". That is certainly the case with the two lead characters though they differ in age, race, and economic status. It's a busy day in NYC. Two men need to get to the courthouse for very different reasons. Unfortunately they get into a car accident.
Gavin Banek (Affleck) is distracted and hits the vehicle driven by  Doyle Gipson (Jackson). 
The accident rendered Gipson's car undrivable.
Banek is a young Wall Street lawyer who has just made partner. 
It probably helped that his seemingly genial father-in-law Stephen Delano (the always good late Sydney Pollack) is one of the managing partners.  
Banek drives a Mercedes and has money to burn. Gipson is a middling insurance salesman who drives a Toyota Corolla. 
Gipson is undergoing a bitter divorce from his wife (Kim Staunton) who from what Gipson believes is pure spite intends to take the kids and move to the West Coast. This would made Gipson's visitation and any meaningful role in his sons' lives virtually impossible. Gipson is also a recovering alcoholic.
Banek must reach the courthouse for a hearing that could give his firm control over a $100 million charity, against the wishes of the decedent's family. 
Gipson must reach the courthouse to detail his plan that would allow his ex to stay in the NYC area and make his visitation possible.  The tightly wound Gipson insists that he and Banek exchange insurance information and wait for the police.

Banek has no time for that. Evidently his appointment is before Gipson's. Banek tries to write a blank check for the damage but Gipson won't take it. 
When it becomes apparent that Banek intends to leave, Gipson asks for a ride to the courthouse but Banek declines. Banek says better luck next time and drives off.  That decision proves to be costly for both men. 
Banek makes his hearing but is shocked to discover that he doesn't have the Power of Appointment which "proves" that his firm owns the charity. The court and opposing counsel have doubts about whether that Power of Appointment even exists or was properly drawn up. Banek is not the most ethical attorney around. 
Gipson was over an hour late to his hearing. The irritated judge tells Gipson that he's already ruled against Gipson and arrogantly proceeds to lecture Gipson about manhood, fatherhood, and responsibility. Gipson also finds that he has Banek's Power of Appointment paperwork. 
So when Banek calls him Gipson is in no mood to return the documents.  Sleeping beasts of rage are awakened in both men. Their families and careers are at stake. They start an escalating cycle of revenge. 
Neither man wants to back down but both men undergo a lot of introspection about the moral decisions they've made that have led them to their encounter. 
Amanda Peet is Banek's  sexy smoothly amoral wife. William Hurt is Gipson's frustrated AA sponsor. Toni Collette is Banek's fellow attorney, former mistress, and ironically a moral voice for good. This movie shows the similarities between both men despite their surface differences. In some respects this is an optimistic if intense story.
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