Changing Lanes

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
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Roger Michell. Written by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (for language).

Central Theme
The contract that binds humans together is a spiritual and human one, not just a legal one, and when that contract is broken, extraordinarily bad things can happen. Living out that contract in daily life requires accepting what we cannot change, having the courage to change what we can and having the wisdom to know the difference.

This is a morality tale in which a fender bender caused by a sudden lane change results in a radical life change for two flawed men. Doyle Gibson is a recovering alcoholic whose drug of choice is chaos and who is about to lose his marriage and kids because his good intentions are so often derailed by his rage when things don’t go right. Gavin Banek is a young, ambitious Wall Street attorney whose desire to help the less fortunate has been derailed by a newfound ambition and wealth. Both are on their way to court; Doyle to save his marriage and Gavin to cover his backside in a borderline fraudulent legal transaction. When their cars collide on the FDR, Gavin offers Doyle a blank check to cover damages but Doyle says no, insisting they exchange insurance information, Gavin says, ‘better luck next time”, and flees the accident site, but inadvertently leaves behind an important legal file in Doyle’s hands. After Doyle is late to court, and essentially loses his wife and kids, and Gavin fails to produce the legal documents required to save his hide, these two men, who began this Good Friday as strangers, digress into a cycle of violence and revenge until the flaws of each are fully exposed. Each hits bottom and is given another opportunity to right past wrongs and build a future based on who they want to be instead of who they have become.

This story centers on identifying an adequate basis for human morality and behavior. Scenes of Doyle in front of and in a Catholic church, the recurring presence of crucifixes, a picture of Jesus in the closet of the house Doyle shows to his wife, Doyle’s serenity prayer and the occurring of events on Good Friday are subtle, ongoing reminders that God is there. The storyline also probes the theme of the inability of the law to avoid chaos in society, when practiced by deeply flawed and self-seeking humans. The serenity prayer forms a summary of the film, with each character challenged to accept what they can’t change and change what they can.

Beliefs num
–Revenge, while temporarily sweet, only makes things worse.
–Doing more good than bad in a day is an inadequate moral basis for human behavior.
–Institutions are only as morally viable as the people in them.
–True morality is what you do when nobody is watching.
–Doing the right thing is its own reward.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–What is the prevailing basis for human moral behavior and what should it be?
–Why is doing more good than bad each day an inadequate standard for human morality and behavior?
–What role does religion play in today’s moral landscape and how does it’s declining influence affect the behavioral climate today? Why has religious influence declined in personal and public life?
–Why is the serenity prayer so useful in daily life? (see quotes).

Provocative Quotes byline
–One wrong turn deserves another.
==Poster, Changing Lanes
–God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
==Gavin, at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, praying the ‘serenity prayer’.
–I don’t want champagne, I am champagne.
==Doyle, at AA, excited about good turns in his life
–Better luck next time!
==Gavin to Doyle, when fleeing accident scene
–If this was my marriage and it was this important to me I would have been here on time.
==Judge to Doyle
–I’m grateful to God, right here in front of the Lord’s house.
==Gavin on phone to Doyle, thinking he will get his file back
–You think I want money? I don’t need your money. I need my time back. Can you get me 20 minutes of my time back?
==Doyle, reminding Gavin that money can’t fix everything
–You cut a big corner of the law getting an old man to sign over a power of attorney.
==Gavin’s mistress, about the deal that is getting him in so much trouble
–I shouldn’t be surprised that a man who leaves the scene of an accident would be cheating on his wife.
==Doyle revealing that he knows Gavin has a mistress
–Did you know my father has been cheating on my mother for 20 years? She knew all along, and would have left him, but she thought it would be unethical to leave a man for cheating on his marriage, after she has enjoyed an expensive lifestyle that depends on a man who makes his money by cheating at work.
==Gavin’s wife, about being a lawyer
–I could have married an honest man but I didn’t. I chose a Wall Street attorney.
==Gavin’s wife
–I’m your wife. Let me help you. Forge the last page of the document.
==Gavin’s wife, urging him to break the law
–I’m looking for meaning. The world is a cesspool. I’m cheating a good guy and my wife cheers me on.
==Gavin to priest, in an unintentional confession
–Sometimes God puts two guys in a bag to watch them tear it up.
==Gavin to priest
–My reward is doing the right thing.
==Doyle, deciding to return the file, when asked if there is a reward
–This is the sort of thing that always happens to you–and never happens to me unless I am in your field of gravity.
==Gavin’s wife to the now jailed Gavin, announcing she had ‘enough’
–Booze isn’t really your drug of choice. You’re addicted to chaos.
==Doyle’s AA sponsor, when posting Doyle’s bail
–I believe in the law. People are good, but without the law there would be chaos. The law keeps us civilized.
==Law school graduate, applying for a job in Gavin’s firm.
–God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change.
==Doyle’s prayer
–Everything decent is held together by a covenant. You and what’s his name, you broke the contract.
==AA advisor, challenging Doyle
–How do you think he got his money? You think those factories in Malaysia have day-care centers?
==Gavin’s boss and father-in-law, Delano, justifying the ‘scamming’ of Gavin’s dying client
–This is all a tight rope, You’ve got to learn the balance. I can live with myself because at the end of the day, I’ve done more good than bad.
==Delano to Gavin, justifying forging a legal document
–You are right. I can do this. I found an edge I can live with.
==Gavin, throwing down the gauntlet to Delano, his father-in-law

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