USA, 2001. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes.
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez,
Bruce Davison, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Rolando Molina
|Grade: C||Review by Claudia Smurthwaite|
Some reviews and ads are likening crazy/beautiful to Romeo and Juliet. This is misleading. Other than the fact that the two lovers are from different worlds, there are no family feuds, no unrequited love, and (potential spoiler) no deaths. Here we have all the ingredients of the teen-movie formula: the poor little rich girl who meets and falls for the hard-working boy from the wrong side of the tracks who is bussed to her swanky Pacific Palisades high school--formulas are formulas for a reason--they are familiar and sometimes they work.
First ingredient: The characters. Nicole is the bored rich girl who drinks too much. She has lazy rich friends, an ambivalent father, and the requisite wicked stepmother. Carlos is the ambitious inner-city boy, who is not only cute, but also a scholar and a star athlete. He has a hardworking, sacrificing mother, a less than successful older brother, and very ethnic friends. You just know it's only a matter of time before these cultures will clash--but it's a movie, so not only will they clash, they will fall in love. Aww.
Second ingredient: The conflict. She's wild and doesn't follow the rules; he's straight-laced and wants to go to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. She shows him how to have fun; he falls in love with her. His family doesn't approve; her father barely notices. Except when he meets Carlos and sees that he is different from the boys his daughter dates. Doing his fatherly duty, he asks Carlos what his plans are for the future. Carlos tells Dad he wants to go to the Naval Academy, but is having a hard time getting a letter of recommendation. As Nicole grimaces in the background, Dad tells Carlos that he just happens to be a congressman and to call his office and they'll talk. (Somehow, our smart boy, the pilot wannabe, hasn't added two and two here--you’d think that if a congressman's child went to your school, you might know this? But hey, it's L.A. where everyone's a star or related to one.)
Third ingredient: The sacrifice. At some point our noble young man is going to be asked to choose between his future and his love for the girl. Carlos meets the congressman, and of course, Dad, thinking he's doing what's best for both kids, tells Carlos of Nicole's troubled past and that Carlos would be better off not seeing her anymore because she can only bring him trouble. What will Carlos do?
Fourth ingredient: The message. Will Carlos follow his heart or his dream? Is there a way to have it all? Will Nicole's father finally notice her? Hey, see the movie--or, better yet, wait until video--to find out.
The only things that keep crazy/beautiful from being formulaic teen-movie crap are the performances of Kirsten Dunst (in a much less repressed, but no less troubled version of her Lux from The Virgin Suicides) and--though his character is almost too good to be true--Jay Hernandez, who is earnest in what could have been a stereotypical Latino-trying-to-get-out-of-the-barrio role. Thank goodness we were spared Freddie Prinze, Jr., Melissa Joan Hart, Sara Michelle Gellar, or any of the other three-named teen-movie "wonders." If I had to be really nitpicky, the main character/script flaws lie in that Nicole seems to be a talented photographer, but other than using the darkroom as a place for a little making out, this aspect of her character is not explored. Conversely, Carlos is too good, with nary a flaw in sight. He loves and respects his mother, his friends respect him, he has goals, and he’s a good student and a star athlete. We can see why Nicole's attracted to him, but what does he see in this often drugged-out girl with really dirty hair?
The film is rated PG-13 and depicts heavy substance use/abuse. It’s not graphic, but it certainly makes it seem as though everyone in high school parties hearty and that there are few, if any, consequences to being high or drunk most of the time. While Dunst nixed the nudity in the main love scene, the characters do have fairly steamy, by PG-13 standards, andto the film's creditresponsible sex.
Does the Hollywood teen formula work this time? Yes and no. crazy/beautiful is better than your average teen flick because its stars are both talented and clearly have chemistry despite the characters' shortcomings. However, unlike this year's earlier teen success, Save the Last Dance, they never quite rise above the stereotypes.
© July 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2001 Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
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