In John Ford’s masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath,” Casy, the preacher who lost the call, says, “So maybe there ain’t no sin an’ there ain’t no virtue. It’s just what people does. Some things folks do is nice and some ain’t so nice. That’s all any man’s got a right to say.”
“Changing Lanes” is a film about the things folks do.
A fender bender sets the story in motion. The two drivers are Gavin Banek, a yuppie lawyer who believes money solves all problems, and Doyle Gibson, a recovering alcoholic who has problems money can’t solve.
The accident occurs as both men are on their way to court. Gavin is going to file papers signed by a dying millionaire who is not fully aware of what he is doing. Doyle is going to try to get his family back.
When the accident occurs, the men respond with niceties like, “Are you OK?” Their encounter ends with Gavin handing Doyle a blank check for damage done and saying, “Better luck next time.” But Gavin leaves behind a key file needed for his case. Doyle picks up the file and carries it with him.
Both arrive in court short of what they need. Gavin has lost his file, and Doyle has lost time, during which the judge grants custody of the children to Doyle’s wife. From this point forward, Gavin and Doyle plan dirty tricks and moves to get back at the other.
Gavin turns off Doyle’s credit, which he needs to get a mortgage to get his wife and children back. Doyle takes the lug nuts off Gavin’s car.
Yet, “Changing Lanes” shows that both men are more than just the anger and rage they exhibit. They have relationships that help define them. Gavin, for example, works for a father-in-law who cheats at everything. Doyle’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor cuts through the reality of Doyle’s circumstances and gets to the real problem.
“Changing Lanes” is a hard film to watch. We see people do horrible things to each other and only then realize the wrong of what they are doing. At confession, Gavin says he is not there to confess, but does so by expressing his belief that God has placed him and Doyle in a bag and is mixing them up to see what will happen.
While watching the film, it seems obvious that if these two men would stop hurting and start helping each other, their circumstance would be better. But that would be simplistic. These men won’t help each other until they are spent and willing to discover what they have learned.
And that is a beauty of the film. We see the pain that two people can inflict on each other, and we see them come to grips with the wrong they have done to themselves and their world.
“Changing Lanes” is more than a film. It is an opportunity to discover our interdependence in this ecosystem of human existence.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: R for strong language
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Gavin Banek: Ben Affleck; Doyle Gipson: Samuel L. Jackson; Michelle: Toni Collette; Delano: Sydney Pollack; Cynthia Banek: Amanda Peet; Valerie Gipson: Kim Staunton; Gavin’s sponsor: William Hurt.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.