Making the Grades
crazy/beautiful introduces us to Carlos (Jay Hernandez), a Hispanic teen living in LA's Boyle Heights. The victim of a runaway father, his mother works hard to provide him additional opportunities, including attending school in prestigious Pacific Palisades. With high hopes for his future, Carlos tackles each school day, framed by a two-hour bus ride, with determination and focus... until he meets Nicole (Kirsten Dunst).
Picking up litter to satisfy a community service sentence for a DUI charge, Nicole is obviously everything Carlos isn't. The daughter of a congressman, her palatial Palisades glass house clearly represents the fragility of a life dominated by frequent intoxication, depression, and suicide attempts--the very situation that took her mother's life. Unable to relate to her stepmother, and with her father's busy schedule, Nicole is the poor rich girl desperate for someone to love. Pleading for Carlos's affection, she feeds on his increasing infatuation.
This melodramatic Romeo and Juliet is amiss in not including a scene where the love struck Carlos plucks petals from a daisy while chanting, "She's crazy. She's beautiful. She's crazy..." At the very least, it would explain the title. Playing a girl who appears to have forgotten to shower for a few months, the usually attractive Dunst is hardly "beautiful." As for "crazy," her character suffers from severe depression and indulges in risk taking to attract her father's attention.
With a highly promiscuous past, Nicole's wardrobe (which often barely covers her breasts), aggressive sexual behavior (her first attempt to seduce Carlos is in her glass bedroom while her father roams past outside), and addiction to alcohol, is a dangerous combination. Eventually succumbing to her advances, Carlos begins a sexually charged relationship (generously depicted with near nudity) in the hope of saving Nicole by providing the love that she yearns for.
With a realistic cocktail of teen emotions and high school life followed by a highly optimistic (and unlikely) ending chaser, crazy/beautiful uncorks some serious topics but doesn't fully explore the consequences, leaving teens with mixed messages about the balance between sex/love and Carlos' role as a rescuer/enabler.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about crazy/beautiful.
Many teens have a sincere desire to “save” other troubled teens. Parents who have teens that see this movie will want to discuss appropriate ways to help their friends overcome serious problems. Are there ways to support a struggling friend while still maintaining their own lives and standards, instead of entering into an intimate relationship the way Carlos does?
The character of Carlos has a loving mother who is concerned about her son’s well being, yet Carlos never takes the opportunity to discuss Nicole’s situation with his mother. Families may want to discuss the reluctance some children have in taking concerns to their parents. How do you think Carlos’s mother would have reacted had he talked to his mother right at the beginning?
What does this movie leave out at the end? What might have happened to Carlos’ career goals? What would Nicole have to endure in order to put her life back on track again?