Crazy/Beautiful

Directed by John Stockwell
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison, Taryn Manning.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving teens, drug/alcohol content, sexuality & language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
July 9, 2001

I suppose I should finally get around to reviewing Crazy/Beautiful. It was a good film, which is quite exceptional for teen-oriented fare. Rarely do films for this demographic get better than Save the Last Dance, but I actually enjoyed this film, even though I felt like a dirty old man watching teenagers have sex on screen with a bunch of 12-year-old girls around me. Anyway, let's talk briefly about this film.

Kirsten Dunst stars as Nicole Oakley, a teenage girl who fits both words of the title quite well. She goes out drinking every night with her friend Maddy (Taryn Manning), and they terrorize the Los Angeles area as much as two teenage girls from the elite coastal suburbs can. On the other side of town is Carlos Nuņez (Jay Hernandez), a first-generation Mexican-American who takes a bus from East L.A. two hours to go the fancy school that Nicole and Maddy take for granted.

After a rather unconventional Cute Meet on the beach, Nicole and Carlos start going together. Carlos wants to go to the Naval Academy and become a pilot, but hanging out with Nicole proves to be a distraction. What he doesn't know is that Nicole's problems run deeper than just social drinking, and even her congressman father (Bruce Davison) warns him to stay away from her.

What surprised me most about this film was that it managed to avoid looking and sounding like other recent teen films. Dunst has done her share in the last few years, but this film and The Virgin Suicides will be the ones to stand out from this phase of her career, precisely because they are unique, and even enjoyable for adults (of course, the latter film was primarily for adults even though the story was about the kids). The action was tightly focused on the two leads, which were very well developed characters. No time was wasted with filler subplots or extended party scenes that showcase whatever song is spewing from the latest pop queen. The filmmakers actually had an interesting story with real dramatic weight.

Dunst, as I said, is often wasted in stupid teen movies, but this film helps to reassure us of her talent. The new surprise is Hernandez who has a very natural presence on the screen. His story is similar to the Lana Turner legend -- he was just found on the street by somebody in the business and was put on a fast track to stardom. It looks like he may have the chops to hang around for a while. At any rate, he's a lot better than Freddie Prinze Jr., whose career is ready to self-destruct at any moment, but I digress.

Crazy/Beautiful is not a great film -- it has its share questionable moments, especially when trying to handle the culture-clash aspects, and the wicked stepmother got a little old -- but I genuinely enjoyed it, much to my amazement. I just hope that the poor box office performance doesn't make Dunst go back to crap like Bring It On.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Crazy/Beautiful (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Crazy/Beautiful (2001) -- VHS
Crazy/Beautiful (2001) -- DVD
Crazy/Beautiful: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan