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Crazy/Beautiful (John Stockwell) 2001 

Crazy/Beautiful is a relatively by-the-book teen drama that gets points for its social consciousness. The film, which focuses on two young lovers (Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez), is more aware than most genre entries of racial difference and class structure. The film is surprisingly bold in many of its choices and flies in the face of conventional Hollywood attitudes toward such things.  Race is not an immediate issue to the successful congressman, but to a lower-class Latino family itís a bone of contention. The liberal father is criticized for being too liberal, while the latchkey kid is the responsible youth on display. Itís got a great, semi-realistic look to it, and doesnít gloss up the proceedings much beyond adding an intrusive pop soundtrack. The fact that the events never escalate into a heavy-handed tragedy is refreshing, even if the filmís ending is excruciatingly preachy and pat. 

The leads share chemistry thatís decent enough, and thatís somewhat surprising, since Dunst is made to play Nicole, a thoroughly irresponsible and unlikable character. The booze swilling, flesh-baring daughter of a politician, she seems to be a more attractive version of Jenna or Barbara Bush. Sheís definitely the crazy half of the relationship, and thereís little doubt that sheís a bad influence on her boyfriend, Carlos (Hernandez). The filmís brief suggestion that heís using her to get a letter of recommendation from her father is surprisingly audacious, but the allegation unfortunately turns out to be unfounded. The filmís conflict arises as they try to discover a happy medium between their personalities, but one canít seriously imagine these two being together for a long term relationship, so it all feels fairly moot. Still, the dialogue is rather sharp, and much of the film holds the audienceís attention. Nicoleís wardrobe is pleasingly skimpy as well, so thereís a PG-13 level of titillation to be found. As Nicoleís behavior grows somewhat tiresome the film wears out its welcome, though I am not sure I would blame Dunst for it. The role is somewhat underwritten, and her profound problems get a generic, movie-of-the-week explanation. Carlosí character is much more sympathetic though love eventually passes as his sketchy motivation. The disappointments in the film donít sting too much though, since the entire enterprise is so modest. The film doesnít aspire to be anything more than a soap opera, so when nothing more ever comes from it, we donít mind. While there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half (such as the similarly themed Drew Barrymore / Chris OíDonnell-starrer Mad Love), itís not exceptionally noteworthy either. 

**

11-09-01 

Jeremy Heilman