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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Crazy/Beautiful

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez
Director: John Stockwell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: June 2001
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Bruce Davison, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Keram Malicki-Sanchez

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Sometimes acceptance isn't a good idea. Congressman Tom Oakley (Bruce Davison) has learned to "accept" (read "give up on") his messed-up, 17-year-old daughter Nicole, even though he admits that she's destructive, volatile and angry. As the almost always wasted Nicole, Kirsten Dunst turns in a gut-wrenchingly honest performance that reduced me to tears. If CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL had been made by some big name director, rather than the perceptive but relatively unknown John Stockwell ("Cheaters"), Dunst might garner serious Oscar consideration for her part. It is one of the best pieces of acting that I've seen this year, but most people will probably never see it, figuring that the movie is another forgettable teen comedy.

As the story opens, Nicole is busy cleaning the beach as part of her sentence for her DUI conviction. It is there that the wealthy, white Nicole meets Carlos (Jay Hernandez), a poor Hispanic who is Nicole's exact opposite. He's a poor kid who is working hard to get accepted into the Naval Academy so that he can be a pilot. Nicole and her girlfriend Maddy (Taryn Manning) see life as one long party. They think nothing of skipping class to drink themselves silly, coming on to strangers and generally shunning any kind of positive behavior. When Carlos, who is bused two hours to go to Nicole's rich school, says that he knows her, she rolls her eyes in a contemptuous flirt and tells him, "Doubt it!"

Needless to say, Nicole and Carlos become lovers, much to the consternation of his strict mom. Nicole's disapproving stepmother is only concerned about her toddler. Tom, who has spent his life trying to save the world, hasn't a clue as to how to rescue his own daughter. Davison stays away from the clichés so you go from despising his character to empathizing with his plight.

Nicole, who wins your heart early-on, looks a mess. With sunken blue eyes, dirty, scraggly, blonde hair and disheveled clothes, she makes you want to give her a swift kick in the pants to straighten her out. But, she's as likeable as she is infuriating. In the story's key scene, she takes Carlos to bed as her father stands outside her glass-walled bedroom. Carlos is shocked, but Nicole claims that its okay since her father lets her do anything that she wants. Besides, she points out, her father would be proud that she's using a condom. Their safe sex is totally Carlos's idea. Dunst is frighteningly sexy. Although Carlos may be safe, you can easily see Nicole getting AIDS or some other disease from sex or needles. Reportedly, the director had to cut many scenes in order to bring it in at PG-13. Although Nicole carries a bottle around like a young girl clutching her teddy bear, she is never shown drinking from it or doing drugs. Nicole's splotchy face, however, shows the ravages of long, daily hours of destructive behavior.

Carlos's brother calls Nicole, "the trash girl," since she was picking up garbage when they first saw her. It's an apt nickname for more reasons than one. With its realistic depiction of teen angst, CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL will break your heart without ever attempting to manipulate it. One hopes that after this part, more directors will offer meaty roles to Dunst, who looks like a young version of and clearly has the potential to be the next Meg Ryan.

CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving teens, drug/alcohol content, sexuality & language and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes

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