Old Man Driving: A Review of Eastwood’s “The Mule”
Clint Eastwood is not a Catholic (not even especially religious), although his Gran Torino (2008) – in which he was both star and director – was a very Catholic film: Catholic characters in a tale of Christ-like self-sacrifice. Eastwood’s latest film, The Mule, is another contemporary tale about self-sacrifice, although with only the slightest hint of Christian sensibility.
Earl Stone (Mr. Eastwood) is 90 and has made his living and reputation raising daylilies, which he did with passionate expertise. But he ignored his (now ex-) wife Mary (Dianne Wiest in a fine performance), his estranged daughter Lily (Alison Eastwood, Clint’s real-life daughter), and his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga, the 21-years-younger sister of Vera). Mary says Earl loved the lilies, and “the flowers deserved it. But so did your family.”
As was the case with Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, Stone is basically a bitter, bigoted old man, whose unpleasantness is almost entirely of his own making, although Earl snarls less than Walt. If either character has a redeeming quality, it’s that he’s a combat veteran. At this point in his career, Mr. Eastwood has no trouble playing with conviction a guy who has seen enough of life not to fear death very much, and who, therefore, is willing to take risks.