“C.R.A.Z.Y.” – you bet. It’s heart wrenching, bold and emotionally complex, a riveting and sobering film that explores the struggles a dysfunctional family faces in the search for love and personal growth.
Jean-Marc Vallée directed this coming-ofage drama that has the period style of “The Wonder Years” and the coming-of-age grit of “Almost Famous.”
The 2005 film’s title is an acronym for the names of the five brothers who make up the Beaulieu family from the Canadian province of Québec. In short, we could refer to them as the jock, the brain, the druggie, the fairy and the fat kid, but that would oversimplify the complexity of their characters. Vallée’s character development, especially that of Raymond and Zach, the two eldest brothers, makes this film a standout.
Zach, the drama’s focus, was born Christmas Day 1960, which he laments he always hated because the holiday overshadowed his birthday and he never got what he wanted. He’s quiet and sensitive, and seems to have been given a kind of healing power at birth.
After dressing up in his mother’s clothes, wetting the bed and taking care of his younger brother, he’s quickly labeled gay and harassed by his classmates and brothers.
When Zach’s gay tendencies grow, he’s tormented between searching for the love he craves and the love that will be accepted, especially by his macho Christian father. In high school, he becomes so uncomfortable with his sexuality that he ruthlessly beats up a guy at school who shows romantic interest in him.
Raymond, the eldest brother, is Zach’s foil – loud, brash, disheveled and constantly high. He gets pulled into drugs at a young age and quickly resorts to promiscuous sex in exchange for his addiction. His father praises the young Casanova’s popularity, seeing it as appropriately masculine, and overlooks his growing drug habit.
Meanwhile, Zach resorts to lying in a desperate attempt to maintain the close relationship he had with his father all through childhood. It’s a double-edged sword, as every time Zach tries to protect his father with a lie, he covers his true identity. It isn’t until Zach begins dating his longtime female friend Michelle that his father’s nerves are calmed, believing, falsely, that the “phase” has passed in Zach’s life.
Vallée captures the nuances of the characters from their expressions, subtle glances and emotions extremely well. The soundtrack is a mix of period music that seems to reflect Zach’s love of popular music, including the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and The Cure.
More than sexuality, the film speaks to the general theme of coming to terms with one’s identity. It’s mad, beautiful and crazy, bursting with the many opposing passions of the human spirit.
At just over two hours, the movie will have you well relaxed in your seat, but not restless. Its close attention to detail, visceral drama and strong score will hold your attention and likely leave you emotionally wraught when you leave.
The film, in French with subtitles in Spanish, is showing at Sala Garbo theater (222-1034) off Paseo Colón in downtown San José, as part of the annual Francophone Festival. The theater plans to show the film until at least the end of the month and may continue into April, depending on attendance.
Geared around International Francophone Day March 20, the festival seeks to celebrate African, Asian, European and American cultures that are tied together by the French language. Other events include a Francophone film festival through March 29 at the American Outlet Mall in the eastern suburb of San Pedro, a variety of art exhibits, workshops and concerts, and a cultural fair.A schedule of events can be found on the Alliance Française Web site at www.afsj.net/francofonia2007.