Hush Hush

A Review of L.A. Confidential

"Off the record, on the QT (quiet), and very hush-hush." So reads one of the tag-lines for the movie L.A. Confidential, which Watershed Community saw in November 2006. Said by the editors of the tabloid magazine in the movie, it could also have been spoken like a mantra by each character as they hid their base, unethical lives.

The cops in the movie seemed good on the surface. Bud White was a staunch defender of women, Jack Vincennes knew how to smooth talk his way in any situation and Ed Exely had scrupulous morals. But you didn't have to look far to see that their surface goodness was crawling with corruption.

Each of them had nothing but themselves on their minds, and worse yet, each character was caught in a web of lies and selfishness that got more sticky with each scene. White couldn't keep his rage under control. Vincennes began to do anything for his own profit. And Exely's ambition made him willing to snitch against his partners. Whether victim or victimizer, each was shady and blanketed their actions with 'quiet'. Through their self-centeredness and their idealism, each character was completely unconscious of their own crooked lives.

The events of the movie, however, conspired against this 'hush-hush' mentality as their carefully laid plans unraveled. Behind their 'squeaky clean' lives was an undercurrent of rotten morals and racism. As truth was revealed, corruption was finally exposed. By the end, even though no lives were redeemed, at least now each cop was sinning consciously, aware of their deeper motivations.

Watershed watched this movie with the intent of continuing our year-long Ignatian contemplation of the theme of our human sinfulness in the movies. The movie gave us ample material to do this! We all realized that our lives are also crawling with corruption, whether conscious or unconscious. We are all deeply flawed. As Arthur Paul Patterson (Watershed's pastor) said, our egocentric compulsions hurt and distract others, and seek to destroy and derail our spiritual growth.

One might think that awareness and admission is the ticket to redemption, but we are powerless to cure ourselves or each other. This is evidenced in the movie when the three men realize their sin, but their attempts to rectify their sins fall short. White hits his girlfriend, Vincennes' sins catch up with him despite his stated desire to make amends and Exely still goes for the kudos. It seems like nothing but bad news. Who wouldn't rather go 'hush-hush' with what is so innately monstrous?

Scripture provides us with another way of seeing our sinful nature. Psalm 139 says that God sees past our flaws. "You have searched me and known me." God's truth is the whole truth about ourselves. He sees our sinful nature, but He knows it's not the end of the story. We are also being recreated. So confession alone isn't enough to redeem us, as if it were ours to do. We need a felt experience of God's grace. We are invited to end the cover-up and the tendency to go 'hush-hush' with our flaws. We are invited into the realm of God's grace.

One of the questions we were asked in our reflections was 'What would you give up for the truth?' Ed Exely said he wanted a wrecking ball taken to his life in order for the truth to be told. Usually the first thing we need to give up is the cover-up. It's like each of us has a role in the movie (in our case, 'Watershed Confidential') when we are ashamed of our sins and hide our faces from God. Like Frankenstein's monster, we think we are not loved and spend our days running and wreaking havoc. But Psalm 139 says that there is no where we can run from God. His love extends to the heights of heaven and the depths of hell. Another passage in 2 Chronicles says, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him" (TNIV). Truly there is no need for hush-hush with God.

We can't end the cover-up with God without putting ourselves in the way of grace -- the way of forgiveness. Instead of being surprised or even weirdly excited by our sinfulness, this is the only place where true healing can happen. Being bored by it is a good sign, but the point is not to indulge our sinful natures. Equally as important is realizing we can't control our realities. How often do we think, 'If I only do this and this, I won't be compulsed or flawed anymore?' Or, worse yet, we think we can control God's response to us by 'being good'. To live this way is to think that the truth about ourselves can cure us. As if we didn't even need God.

All these ways end up in 'Watershed Confidential'. Whether it's trying to control our realities by 'not sinning' or controlling God's response to us by being good (as if that's possible), we need to simply trust in God's forgiveness and place ourselves in the light of God's grace. All we can do is maintain our relationship with God and others -- through prayer, through reading Scripture and other spiritual texts, through honesty and times of confession. God will heal us in God's good time. Without God we're doomed.

What a relief it is to know that we can give up fighting our weakness and flaws. In fact, God tells us, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." One of the songs in the movie crooned, 'Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative'. What a relief to know that we don't need to do this. Reflecting on L.A. Confidential helped us confess our radical self-centeredness and then face Christ in confession and prayer. Our sins are no longer kept confidential. No more hush-hush.

Psalm 139:23 & 24

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

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