Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Walker -- loyalty in action

Director: Paul Schrader, 2007.

A friend once told me how to know if you're watching a bad movie: if your butt twitches it's a loser. This is a "butt-twitcher" of a movie.

On paper The Walker has a lot going for it. It's got a a veteran cast, including the great Lauren Bacall, Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Willem Dafoe and Ned Beatty. And the storyline looks promising, set in Washington DC with political intrigue and scandal. Yet, this failed to keep me interested. It is a disappointing movie, with an unsatisfying ending.

Harrelson plays Carter Page III, a DC walker, which is a person who escorts the wives of the political power-brokers to high society events. A friend and a confidante, he spends his time playing cards with them, partly as a way of catching up on all the gossip. Not hurting for money, since his father and grandfather were rich and famous politicians, he works little, dresses well, and stays in the know on the movers and shakers. But as an elegant homosexual not interested in pursuing politics ("I am superficial"), he is a disappointment to his father. his best friend Lynn Lockner (Kristin Scott Thomas) discovers her lover murdered, it is Carter who puts himself in the middle of the situation to protect her and her senator husband from scandal. His loyalty to her causes him to become the center of the police investigation and the prime suspect. As the plot develops, Carter has to resort to his own investigation, with the help of his gay lover, to discover the root of the conspiracy.

With a deep southern accent and bushy toupee, Harrelson gives a "not quite over the top" performance as the perfect gay gentleman. Thomas is strong as the lead female. But the main problem with The Walker is that it is confusing and slow. Taking too long to get to the murder, I almost gave up in the first act. But by the second and third acts the plot was dull and perplexing. With too many characters with unclear motivations, this lost me and left my wife asleep. By the time the ending arrived, I turned it off still not understanding what had really happened; worse yet, not really caring. Walker uses Carter's homosexuality as a device to enable him to become friends with the wealthy women without causing their husbands concern. Yet, the film's images of the gay lifestyle are at times troubling. His lover's job as a gay artist, creating agitprop posters of nude men being tortured are disturbing and unnecessary.

Homosexuality is morally a sin. The Bible is clear that same-gender sex is wrong (Rom. 1:26-27), though it is also clear that the people involved are dearly loved by God (Jn 3:16). Lest I be accused of intolerance, the Bible is also clear that heterosexual adultery or pre-marital sex are also sins (1 Cor. 6:9), as are lying, gossip, stealing, etc (2 Cor. 12:20, Matt. 19:18). But Hollywood seems to glorify in showing homosexual relationships, perhaps with an agenda to promote (think Brokeback Mountain, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, etc). I can accept that some will choose this lifestyle, even that it might be portrayed in movies. But it is hard to watch when it includes "in-your-face" visuals almost as propaganda.

A key theme from The Walker is that of loyalty. Carter's loyalty to Lynn almost cost him his freedom, even his life. He demonstrated the true meaning of loyalty to a friend. The bible tells us that a friend loves at all time (Prov. 17:17) and such love must be shown in action. How far will we go for a friend? Would we be willing to put ourselves in danger, in the midst of serious trouble to help a friend, to protect the friend's spouse? Would we risk imprisonment and death for a friend? Carter did.

It's possible that his loyalty to Lynn was a reaction to the lack of acceptance from his father. His avoidance of political involvement combined with his homosexuality may have been cause for scorn from his male predecessors. Sometimes a person will pour himself into another friendship as a way to gain the missing parental acceptance. That provokes personal reflection on those of us who are parents: are we providing the kind of acceptance our children need? Particularly as a father, am I accepting my son for who he is? Or am I pushing my agenda and expectations unfairly on him in ways that are unhealthy and damaging? A father's acceptance is indeed a powerful thing.

Copyright ©2008, Martin Baggs

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