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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 26, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"crazy/beautiful" has just started its opening weekend and already, the film's box office numbers are below expectations. It's unfortunate, because although the ads simply make it look like just another rowdy teen joyride, the film actually has a lot going on under the surface. Directed by John Stockwell, who previously suprised with the enormously engaging HBO drama "Cheaters", "crazy/beautiful" stars Kirsten Dunst as Nicole, the daughter of an affluent congressman who has had a history of recklessness - drunken driving, drug use, sex and arrests. Carlos (Jay Hernandez) is the son of a very hard working Mexican-American mother who has worked enormously hard to get her son ahead in life. Carlos is equally invested in his future, hopping on a bus at the break of dawn and riding for hours to get to a good school - the one that Nicole also attends.

The two meet and opposites do eventually attract - he's angry with her for getting him in trouble and stuck in detention, but she's charming and attractive; soon, the two are taking their romance further - to the anger of Carlos's friends and to the dismay of Nicole's father (Bruce Davidson of "X-Men")), who thinks that Carlos is a student with a bright future and that he should stay away from Nicole, who takes those around her down with her on her destructive path. But there's more from her past that eventually is revealed as the audience learns why Nicole has been depressed.

"crazy/beautiful" isn't always terrifically original or does it get its points across in a way that isn't always a little bit heavy-handed, but there's several elements that really do make it work well and become effective. Dunst offers a superb performance of a girl who can have a wild, joyous side of her - sometimes taking things a little too far - and a different half that's intense, angry and unhappy. She's realistic, engaging and sympathetic throughout the movie - it's easily one of her best performances. Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut also offers a cold, crisp looking picture that really gives the film a down-to-Earth and engaging look, with interesting angles and use of colors.

Supporting performances are also solid, for the most part. Lucinda Jenny is the one most left hanging by the script, playing Nicole's stepmother as a shrill one-note character. Davidson also gets stuck with some awkward lines, as well. Hernandez is strong in his first performance and he and Dunst do have good chemistry with one another. Stockwell does well at portraying the elements of drug use and sexuality without being able to actually show any details, restricted by the PG-13 rating that the movie probably was required to come in with; I believe there were even additional scenes taken out in the past couple of weeks before the film's release. Those who follow this site know what I'm thinking - hopefully we'll see all of this material on the DVD.

"crazy/beautiful" doesn't manage to skip away from all of the teen movie cliches - the romantic scenes set to the next pop hit are included, but there's more substance and stronger performances here than most films marketed to the teen audience. It's unfortunate that the movie is being released in the middle of the Summer, where it seems like it's going to be passed over for other Summer releases.

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