Just going on the sassy and jangly rock-filled MTV ad campaign for crazy/beautiful, you'd think that this teen flick was just another She's All That-style adolescent love story about the popular kid and the misfit, but this is not just another happy-go-lucky clone. While the writing may be a little too self-indulgent with its message-laden speeches, crazy/beautiful is pretty brave in the subjects it takes on, and does its best to avoid many teen movie conventions.
Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) is the privileged daughter of a congressman (Bruce Davison) who remarried to start a new family after Nicole's mother's suicide. Traumatized and emotionally alone, Nicole is always in trouble, and makes a defiant play for wrong-side-of-the-tracks Carlos (Jay Hernandez from MTV's Undressed soap), a hard-working straight-A Latino who commutes two hours from East Los Angeles to the Nicole's ritzy Pacific Palisades high school.
Of course, the film's filled with pat questions, like "Can their inter-racial, inter-class romance survive?" "Can Carlos teach Nicole to love?" and "Will Nicole's dad ever reach out to his troubled daughter?" But the writers show smart glimpses into the many sides of some of these cliché issues. For example, instead of just going the Pretty in Pink route where the poor kid feels alienated from the rich kid's exclusive clique, this time the tables are turned. Nicole finds herself at a loss at Carlos' eastside Latino family party. She realizes she's competing with other Latina women for Carlos' affection, and that his family and community could mean more to him than her or her family's money and prestige.
But those trite themes get played out in a bad way as well, mostly through poorly written, long, groan-inducing soliloquies. Case in point: Carlos delivers a classic "you make me not afraid to be myself" monologue that could just make you gag. Fortunately, most of the non-speech dialogue is decent stuff. Unlike Kevin Williamson's tiresome, adult-sounding teen banter, conversations between Nicole and Carlos are actually very real and often touching.
Much of that realism may be more a result of the truly impressive performances from Hernandez and most especially Dunst, who plays Nicole as the fragile party girl who acts out with wild and crazy antics to dull a heart-wrenching pain. Even Davison does the best anyone could do with the often hollow father role, adding depth where the writing for the character doesn't provide any.
Just keep in mind that -- despite the marketing -- this movie is no screwball romance, so don't go in expecting to get one. Instead of crazy/beautiful, it should be Prozac-addled/beautiful. In other words, it's not a good kind of crazy; it's that dark, disturbing kind of crazy. In that way, it's hard to say who this movie's intended for, but, judging from all the puffy red eyes in the screening audience, teen girls will at least get a tearjerking (and a lame-ass soundtrack by the likes of Seven Mary Three and Fastball) out of it.
The DVD release is largely overwrought, featuring a chatty but content-free commentary track with director John Stockwell and Dunst. The deleted scenes don't add a whole lot, though Stockwell's commentary there hints at a lack of chemistry between Dunst and Hernandez, which might very well be the problem with the film. Most curious, though, is the cover of the disc: of course it features the de rigueur "Two Thumbs Up!" tagline, but directly underneath that is a sickly "three stars!" proclamation from USA Today. Is that really the best you could do??? I guess The Movie Minute was mute on this one.
"Hey, am I lucky or what!?"