November 25, 2019

THE RIGHT FILM, RIGHT NOW: Ford v Ferrari shows how masculinity can make the world a better place.

Audiences are thrilling to “Ford v Ferrari” because in an age when every corner of the culture is shrieking “toxic masculinity,” the movie is a true account of how masculinity can make the world a better place. That obsessive need to compete pushes man to higher and higher levels. Sometimes that instinct to fight over everything — “to find quarrel in a straw,” in Hamlet’s words — manifests itself in strange ways, as when the two principals beat each other up with the contents of a sack of groceries. The New Yorker dubbed this scene “an erotic tangle,” but the spirit of it is Mars, not Eros. The two men are essentially brothers, and sometimes brothers communicate with their fists. Bravo to a movie that resists the mass psychosis telling us that there is something inherently wrong with acting like a man.

As if the above wasn’t enough of an endorsement: ‘Ford v Ferrari’ is the climate change horror film nobody needed.

All the greatest hits of American exceptionalism are baked into the script. Individualism? The central tension of the movie is between Shelby’s desire to do things on his own and the auto company’s habit of succeeding via collaboration. (“You can’t win a race by committee,” Shelby tells Ford at one point, articulating the film’s thesis statement.) Norm-breaking? Shelby and Miles’ masterstroke for winning Le Mans is to swap out their car’s brakes midway through the race, a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Le Mans rulebook. Xenophobia? Ferrari’s execs are painted as backstabbers who deserve a comeuppance, and frequently their Italian dialogue doesn’t even get subtitles, so uninterested is the movie in their perspective.

White masculinity? There is not a single character of color in the film, and only one female character with a name: Ken’s wife Mollie, played by the appealing Irish actress Caitriona Balfe. In lieu of interiority, Mollie is given a lust for speed to match her husband’s, at one point zooming the family car around a winding suburban road, careening past other cars, while Ken yells at her to slow down. (Ford v Ferrari’s idea of feminism: Women ? can ? pollute ? and ? endanger ? people’s ? lives ? too ?.)

Geez, wait until the author discovers Shirley Muldowney, and her 1983 biopic, Heart Like a Wheel.

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