Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Michael Clayton

What I love about this movie is not the heroic tale of truth winning out over the evil corporation, but the man named Michael Clayton and his job as the law firm's "fixer." What I relate to is the unseen nature of his work, on account of his "janitorial" status, cleaning up legal problems that more public and respectable lawyers avoid: running out at two in the morning to protect the interests of hit-and-run millionaires, or soothing the nerves of a jangled adulterer. Though he knows there is so much more to the-equation-of-what-gets-seen than the truth value of content, his job requires him to bite his lip and he's good at it.

But him, the man, responding to circumstance and the sometimes disappointing faith we put in one another, and the scene where he climbs the hill to look at the horses, to say hello and to escape himself and to cry; here we see the stakes and the weight of accepting one's position. He turns, not on his bosses or clients complaints, or on his friend's death, though these are the catalysts, but he turns on himself. Standing in the gray morning light, the three riderless horses watch as he slowly climbs the hill. The truth of himself and his sadness and his frustration and his person is what sets into motion the dismantling of these larger structures of corporation and law.

because he stopped
to look at the horses

to stop and look at the horses
to want to look at the horses

pure misery
is to be without

What I love about this movie is that it makes this connection so clear, the connection that what motivates us has nothing to do with morality, or systems, or circumstance; but where we are, dealing with the day. Creating something large and lasting that in retrospect could be called an ethic, but there is no good and no evil when we are working inside of ourselves. He says to his son, chewing on the disappointment of his brother and his failed business deal, he says to his son "you will not be one of those people who has shit falling out of the sky around them," All the time around them. That you won't give in to the hopelessness that surrounds us, distracts and confuses us, that muddies our ability to judge the truth of ourselves. Michael Clayton is a flawed man but it is because of these flaws and taking a single moment to feel them that allows him to see past them.

he gave the cab driver
fifty dollars “Fifty dollars

worth.” to drive him around
until the money runs out

to be rid of all this
the expression on his face