Sunday, November 22, 2009

Crazy and Beautiful, That's Kiki

Dave here, popping in to offer thoughts on a sliver of 2001's cinematic offerings as per Nat's request.

As a movie, crazy/beautiful isn't nearly as offbeat as its uncapitalized title and forward-slash want to suggest - the arc of the story is effortlessly predictable and the social divisions between the couple are often drawn in laughably implausible ways. But it marks itself out as a movie worth watching by having Kirsten Dunst burning a hole through the screen throughout. She seems to have been missing from the movies lately, which probably makes a lot of people quite happy... but I don't count myself as one of them. Her performance as Nicole in crazy/beautiful was perhaps the first time her charisma, as seen from her debut in 1994's Interview with a Vampire to 2000's energetic Bring It On, was backed up by blindingly evident acting chops.

She shoots this routine plot through with a bare-faced honesty, a vibrant but completely confused girl, switching from violent temper to coy flirt to desolate weeper at the blink of an eye. Her 'biggest' scene - a heightened encounter with her father and her cold stepmother - is sadly also the one crack in Dunst's armour, as she rather overdoes the emotional breakdown. But for the rest of the film, she makes Nicole a pathetic mess, but one that you can see the spark that attracts Carlos (Jay Hernandez) and makes him want to 'rescue' her. The film ends up spelling out why she's reached this state, but it's all been clear in Dunst's performance from the start - she's almost given up on herself at the very start, as she half-heartedly says "stay away, I'm dangerous" to Carlos and his friends. Frequently it's obvious how much she relies on other people to indulge her pretences, and Dunst excels at the self-conscious, pathetic sadness Nicole feels when someone cuts through it.

I'm not pretending it's the best performance of 2001 (not when Naomi Watts is staring at me...), but it certainly deserves more attention than it got and should remain a highlight of Kiki's career. Maybe her taking some time out of the limelight will help in final breaking her out of being perceived as a teenager and give up some parts, like Nicole, that are worthy of her considerable talent and charisma.

(A shallow postscript: is she not infinitely preferable with the glowing red hair to the slightly pasty-blonde? Yet another reason the Spider-Man movies - we'll just pretend the last one didn't happen - are golden.)



This is the performance I most wish I had nominated for a film bitch award. I had her in my honorable mentions but she shoulda been an actual nominee. This performance is so VIBRANT. You chose the right word.

Glenn said...

Agreed. She makes the film so much better than it had any right to be.

Anonymous said...

who would you replace for your actual line-up Nathaniel? is Naomi Watts still the gold medalist?


i'd replace stockard channing.

Anonymous said...

Kirsten is very underrated, I Loved Marie Antoinette as well.

Howler said...

I recently rewatched "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and I think her line readings are spectacular. It is quite difficult to appreciate supporting parts in the film with Kate Winslet hogging all the attention (I was mesmerized by Clementine's blue ruins and agent oranges so I hardly noticed Tom Wilkinson and Kirsten doing anything special the first time I saw it), but she handles difficult scenes with Wilkinson effortlessly and beautifully narrates the film's most poignant sequence. I think I had to grow up to like her: she seemed hell of irritating to me before.