(John Stockwell, USA, 2001)


When young lovers decide to cut all ties with society and hit the road, that moment of decision is either glorious, as in Reckless (1984), or ominous, leading to bad ends in the many films inspired by Gun Crazy (1948) or Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

Crazy/Beautiful is one of the very few teen movies to explore a third option. Is it possible for Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) and Carlos (Jay Hernandez) to come back, to reintegrate themselves into the world that oppresses them in so many ways? Could that world change enough to accommodate them?

These could be regarded as conservative questions, counter to the rebellious, amoral thrust of so many teen stories. But director John Stockwell (Cheaters, 2000) and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi take these questions seriously, at face value, and demand that their audience does the same.

Crazy/Beautiful is a curious mixture of the fresh and the formulaic. The intimacies between Nicole and Carlos (mainly sex and letter writing) are sweetly presented. Other elements – such as the class and cultural differences that distinguish the lovers, and the respective groups of possessive friends and insensitive parents on both sides – often fall into clichéd predictability.

Stockwell cleverly bends the reigning MTV style of current youth films to his own ends by showing Nicole and her slacker buddies as existing in a bubble of music and intoxication. Carlos, of course, comes straight from a typical Latino movie – his extended family home overflows with cooking, cool dancing and street parties. A dark speech by Nicole’s father (an overwrought Bruce Davison) about his daughter’s mental instability momentarily takes us into Bettly Blue (1986) territory.

The film also invents a new way of getting around Hollywood’s prevailing squeamishness about having to show the presence (and occasional use) of condoms in the age of safe sex.

During the first, difficult bedroom encounter between Nicole and Carlos – where consummation precisely does not occur – a condom is at the centre of the action. When the good loving really starts, however, such banal, material details disappear in a dreamy haze of music and superimposed images. But the filmmakers can say they at least planted the correct, civic idea.

MORE Stockwell: Blue Crush, Into the Blue

© Adrian Martin November 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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