review by Gregory Avery, 13 July 2001

In Crazy/Beautiful -- which hasn't so much opened as sneaked into theaters -- Kirsten Dunst gets her chance to play Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass.  Sort of.

As Nicole, a high-school girl from a privileged family, she falls for Carlos (Jay Hernandez), a boy from a Latino family. He's working hard to achieve both academic and career goals (which includes a two-hour bus ride, one way, every school day), but she's hell-bent on self-destruction, so, after wrecking havoc in her own life, she starts creating problems in his, as well.

The redeeming factor is supposed to be that Carlos can see "the beauty between the fragments" in Nicole. But, the way Kirsten Dunst plays her, with a slack expression and muffled, disaffected manner, Nicole simply looks too creepy and outright dangerous to be appealing. Dunst has emphasized her character's nihilistic aspects to the point that you wouldn't know where to start going about to save her, if she can be saved at all. But, again and again, the movie asks us to care about the outcome of a situation that we've already long since figured out.

Jay Hernandez is solid and has a quiet charm, but he can't carry the entire movie for two people, while Bruce Davison injects a genuine sense of emotional anguish and frustration into his scenes as Nicole's father, who has long since been stretched past the point of endurance but can't bring himself to stop caring about his daughter.

The film's cinematography also lends a brownish, greasy quality to most of the scenes with Dunst and Taryn Manning, who plays Nicole's best friend, calling to mind an uncharitable comment the critic Rex Reed made about how an actress in a major European film of the Seventies looked "unwashed even in a bathtub", which was probably the last thing anybody in this movie had in mind.  Unfortunately, Crazy/Beautiful is cursed with a similar contradiction:  it's a melodrama bleached of its most vital source of emotion.  As such, it can't extricate itself from its own dilemma, and audiences won't be able or willing to do the work that the film should do on its own. 

Directed by:
John Stockwell

Kirsten Dunst
Jay Hernandez
Bruce Davison

Written by:
Phil Hay
Matt Manfredi

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13




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