review by Gregory Avery, 13 July
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,
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.
PG-13 - Parents
Some material ma
be inappropriate for
children under 13
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