dir John Stockwell
scr Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
with Kirsten Dunst, Jay Hernandez, Bruce Davison, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Tommy De La Cruz, Rolando Molina, Herman Osorio, Miguel Castro, Soledad St Hilaire, Ana Argueta, Richard Steinmetz
release US 29.Jun.01; UK 21.Sep.01
Touchstone 01/US 1h40
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
crazy/beautiful The presence of Kirsten Dunst in any teen film is reason enough to see it, and this is no exception, as she delivers another outstanding performance. And the film around her is up to her standard--deep, provocative, engaging. She plays Nicole, daughter of a wealthy congressman (Davison), attending a high-class high school in Malibu where she's the school's top delinquent along with her partner-in-crime best friend (Manning). When she meets Carlos (Hernandez) there's a definite spark, and his background doesn't put her off. He's a poor kid from innercity L.A., bussed to Malibu because of his good grades and ambitions to become a Navy pilot. As their love blossoms, difficult truths loom: He might be able to save her from self-destruction, but she could ruin his life in the process. She's crazy; he's beautiful!

Yes, the situation is laced with a rather contrived irony, but the film is so well written, directed and played that it hardly matters. We easily become involved in this sweet, intriguing romance, and go along for the bumpy ride, which avoids teen movie cliches by putting an edgy, authentic spin on everything. (Except the soundtrack, which is jammed to the gunnels with loud music.) Stockwell's direction is inventive and meaningful. And Dunst gives a first-rate performance as this tortured teen, well matched by newcomer Hernandez's warmth and subtlety, and with terrific support from the always-excellent Davison as her caring yet frustrated dad. While the plot itself takes a few dodgy turns near the end, threatening to dive into lame Hollywood territory, it narrowly avoids throwing it all away by keeping the characters--not the issues--at the front, and never shying away from the heavy stuff.
adult themes, language cert 12 18.Sep.01

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall