Crazy Beautiful

Although Crazy Beautiful has many elements familiar to us all there are some rather novel twists added to the mix that I found refreshing

Over the years, there have been many films in the genre, teen angst. Perhaps the best know of these is the classic Rebel Without a Cause. Of late, this genre has been diluted with so called ‘coming of age’ flicks, which are little more than sex and drug laden exploitation films, mere extended rock videos. Between the two extremes there is crazy beautiful.

While it is no Rebel, it is far better written than most of its contemporaries. Although Crazy Beautiful has many elements familiar to us all there are some rather novel twists added to the mix that I found refreshing. Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) is the free spirited teenage daughter of a liberal congressman (Bruce Davison). She drinks, does drugs (although not on screen) and is very sexually bold. She meets Carlos (Jay Hernandez). His is a Latino who is straight arrow almost beyond belief. He plays football; gets ‘A’s, helps his family and is respectful to all authority figures.

Once they met you expect that his life will go down hill fast. Seventeen-year-old boys do not need much of a push away from schoolwork when confronted with a beautiful, willing girl. Of course, their respective families are against them going out. His mother feels this way because of the negative affect she has on him and because she is white. One twist is the father’s reaction. He has always championed immigrants in his professional life.

He runs for office as a friend of Hispanics. He is against Carlos and Nicole because he wants to protect the boy from his daughter’s influence. Carlos wants to go to Annapolis and the congressman sees this dream disappearing if he continues to see Nicole. While this set up could have easily fallen into the standard trap of rich versus poor, white versus brown etc., it focuses on a growing love between the two. Nicole is extremely insecure and has always felt she was not worthy of being loved.

As the story progresses she finds that a worthwhile person like Carlos truly loves her in an unconditional manner. Even though Ms Dunst does not get too much in the way of wardrobe, Crazy Beautiful avoids the cheap shot of gratuitous nudity and also avoids the typical Hollywood ploy of the ‘bad’ girl doing drugs, smoking and drinking in every other scene.

The writer of this tale, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi avoid the pitfalls to create a somewhat tender, realistic story of teens. As a father of a girl Nicole’s age I appreciate the fact that this movie does not glorify dangerous rebellion but rather tends to how life requires more than just blind love, it needs commitment, communication and work.

Crazy Beautiful is a real star vehicle for Ms. Dunst. She has been a formidable presence in feature films since she was 11 and stared in ‘Interview with a Vampire’ in 1994 opposite Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Since then she has gradually moved into more adult roles. Sure, she paid her dues with some fluff films but the core of her career has been incredibly well written roles.

Many young stars when moving out of a childhood career into an adult one take anything in order to recreate themselves. Ms Dunst chooses her roles with great care. Her recent film Virgin Suicides is an example, Crazy Beautiful is another. Dunst provides Nicole with realism and depth. She can command the screen in every scene. Her actions are explained as the story unfolds, providing rational for the out of control behavior. While Ms Dunst does show more skin than her previous films those that obtain Crazy Beautiful for sensationalistic reasons will be disappointed, Crazy Beautiful centers on her talents not her physical attributes.

Crazy Beautiful highlights how this young woman takes her craft seriously. Her posture, gestures and facial expressions a notably different from any film she has ever done. Giving a nice contrast to the wild Nicole is Hernandez in his role of Carlos. He is the perfect boyfriend. Controlled, polite, studious and focused. The audience feels sorry for him, as he is lead away from his life long goals by the lithe Nicole. We can understand how his curiosity leads to infatuation and eventually to a real love but we see what the congressman sees, a young man with great potential wasting his life.

Crazy Beautiful transcends the run of the mill teen flick because of the chemistry these two young actors provide. In a smaller role but one that is pivotal is Davison. He captures the character well giving the older audience members someone to identify with. Concerned with the plight of his Latin constituents he truly wants to give Carlos a chance. A new wife and daughter also trap him at the expense of his relationship with Nicole. At the end of Crazy Beautiful there is a very touching scene that will emotionally affect both generations.

John Stockwell does an excellent job at the helm of this little gem. Among his previous work is ‘Cheaters’ a brilliant film he did for HBO. As with crazy he utilized the talents of both established Hollywood and the rising stars on the horizon. Here, his use of the camera is excellent. While it borders on an almost documentary style it provides visually captivating shots.

The Crazy Beautiful sound track is right out of MTV without giving the feel of an extended music video or sound that overcomes the dialogue. Crazy Beautiful will be degraded once it is cut to full screen for cable. The shots are often designed to show the polarization of the characters by a literal distance between them on screen. Pan and scan will erase this emotional device.

The pacing is quick but never so fast as to lose track of the importance of the story. Running only 99 minutes, the romance blossoms a little too quickly but time is made to expound of how Nicole depends on her best friend or how she interacts with her little stepsister. More could have been presented to flesh out the home lives of the leads but there was enough for the audience to get the picture.

The overall feeling of Crazy Beautiful is heightened by his use of a blue wash in much of the film. This gives a cool, softer feeling than found in most films. He was also under a lot of pressure to cut the movie to from ‘R’ to ‘PG-13’. Most of this was due to the McCann Hearings in the Senate on film violence and sexual content. Rather than being limited Stockwell uses this to his advantaged.

The Crazy Beautiful disc is excellent. There is both a DTS and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. The anamorphic 1.85:1 video is crisp and full of details. The extras include a number of deleted scenes complete with optional director’s comments. The main commentary by Stockwell and Dunst is fun to listen to and interesting to hear the interaction between actor and director. There is also a making of documentary. Crazy Beautiful is one to watch with your teenager and talk afterwards. It is also a genuinely enjoyable film.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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