Crazy/Beautiful (12)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; 4 deleted scenes; 'Blurring Fiction And Reality' featurette; Theatrical trailer.

THE STORY is certainly familiar - two teenagers from opposite ends of the social spectrum struggle to find love against the odds - but Crazy/Beautiful actually surprises by being a better than average entry into the genre.

Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez star as the mis-matched lovers in question; Dunst being the rich but deeply-troubled daughter of a wealthy senator, and Hernandez being the studious but poor boy from the back streets whose success at college holds the key to a career with the US Air Force.

The variation on the popular theme this time being that Dunst is the trouble maker with a penchant for ruining lives, while Hernandez is the guy striving to do the right thing who falls hopelessly in love with her.

What elevates director John Stockwell's movie above most teen fare of this sort, however, is the quality of its performances and the diversity of its direction - the movie is shot, at times, almost like a documentary, lending it a raw, almost fly-on-the-wall feel. An arrest scene, in particular, feels like an episode of `Cops', while several of the opening, establishing sequences, effectively convey the type of neighbourhood Hernandez, in particular, has had to grow up in.

There are times when Stockwell seems unable to resist lapsing back into the more MTV-driven style of film-making, most notably in the romantic, music-driven interludes (there are almost 30 songs used throughout), but for the majority of the time, he does show an assured, dare I say, mature approach to the subject matter. And he is ably supported by his players, who frequently rise above the cliche-ridden material to deliver some genuinely touching and heartfelt turns.

Hernandez may look like a poster boy recruit from the Keanu Reeves/Speed era, but his performance manages to combine the frustration of his predicament with that feeling of being in love, while Dunst is simply riveting as the screwed up rich chick trying to emerge from the wreckage of a troubled childhood.

Dunst first shot to prominence alongside Tom Cruise in Interview With The Vampire and has since displayed a knack for picking out interesting roles, such as her acclaimed turn in The Virgin Suicides. But fans may best remember her for gross out turns in the likes of Drop Dead Gorgeous and the recent Get Over It. Here she shows an incredible diversity, flitting between the annoying and the heartbreaking as the insecure teenager striving to find love from an overbearing step-mother, a distant father and, of course, Hernandez.

Some of the scenes between herself and her father (Bruce `X-Men' Davison), in particular, strike a strong chord with the viewer and it must be said that Davison is another cast member who shines. Where the film ultimately lets itself down badly, however, is in its final moments which are hopelessly upbeat and out of keeping with much of the previous material. It is then that the director cops out in order to pander to the mainstream audiences' appetite for happy endings and when Crazy/Beautiful really reverts to being just another chick flick. Until then, it is worth seeing.