directed by John Stockwell
(Touchstone, 2001)

In this current movie landscape, littered with independents-turned-drivel and teenage sex comedies (and more than a few that overlap those two categories), I was surprised by Crazy/Beautiful. Very surprised, in fact. It's neither of the two.

Set in Hell-A (southcentral Los Angeles), the story revolves around two high school seniors. Kirsten Dunst plays Nicole, a girl from the right side of the tracks, with an absent father and an evil stepmother who's only inches removed from a modern Cinderella. She acts out with a wild streak and substance abuse, thoroughly taking her life for granted. Jay Hernandez portrays Carlos, a hardworking, college-bound boy who falls in with Nicole, despite his ambitions.

Parts of the story are relatively predictable. It follows the Romeo and Juliet meets Less Than Zero model pretty closely. Neither family likes the other, not in specific ways, but in a general, cultural sense. Carlos seems set on saving Nicole from herself.

It's not so much the storyline that's original, but the way in which it's presented. The writers know it's not groundbreaking -- that it's not a new story, but that, in fact, it's a story as old as love itself. As such, they delve very deeply into the specifics of the characters and wrap it up in Art. The context of the people involved and the specifics of the individual culture-clash is shocking enough to stand on its own.

That said, Crazy/Beautiful is definitely an indie film. More than once, the boom is clearly in the shot, and the dialogue gets a little heavy-handed from place to place. It's fairly beat into the viewers' skulls that Carlos is the responsible one. It's more than evident that Nicole has a problem with her father. Despite that, it has flashes of brilliance, mainly due to the standout performance of Hernandez. As a newcomer with no other movie work to his credit, he does an incredible job with this role. I'll be watching his career from here.

This isn't a movie for everyone. On the surface, I've heard it called "cute" and "boring" from various girls I know, and I can see some people watching and not finding it as intriguing. However, if you're looking at it from a character-study standpoint, and possibly a place of cultural relevance, it's worth every dime of the rental price.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]
Rambles: 30 December 2001

Buy it from