The unholy bastard child of a low budget after school drama and the limpest, most derivative romantic comedy imaginable, Crazy Kind of Love attempts to exist as both a frothy coming of age story and a more sombre drama, and it completely fails at both. So little feels genuine that it begs the question if those involved are in actuality idiot savants and have crafted one of the most subtle parodies of all time.
The most genuine compliment I can pay to this wreck is that everything at play is mostly harmless, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not still insulting to the viewer. If the on-the-nose musical cues and the atrociously contrived meet-cute between our young leads aren’t enough to drive you stir crazy early on, Crazy Kind of Love will soon use up its third, fourth and umpteenth strike as it continues to show absolutely no grasp as to how normal people react in the simplest situations. If anyone can earnestly tell me they’ve been to a party depicted in the film’s first act or been privy to a divorce unfurl as the one did here please contact me immediately as I do in fact wish to journey to Narnia.
And those transgressions are among the most overt, as Crazy Kind of Love also takes every possible opportunity to be precious and instead just makes things awkward, even in the smaller, more intimate moments – instances that should have been reined back and left to unfurl with emotional honesty, not in the vein of a bad sitcom. The entire effort is made all the more insulting in approaching themes like growing up in the shadow of hardships and divorce with the care of a tween writing in her licensed One Direction diary.
While director Sarah Siegel-Magness has to take ample responsibility for not moderating her actors, nobody has to look very far to find the culprit behind the emotional suicide of Crazy Kind of Love. Yes, the one supplying the noose is writer Karen McCullah Lutz whose recent credits include The Ugly Truth, The House Bunny and She’s the Man – wow. To be fair, she did lend her pen to some minor classics in the late 90’s-early aughties with 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Bonde but it’s clear that she milked the high school dramedy-spunky heroine cow dry years ago and is now just blinding yanking, hoping something of worth will drip out.
The central plot, as I’m sure one could guess is very simple: Henry’s (Revolution’s Graham Rogers) parents are headed for divorce, something his mother (Virginia Madsen) takes rather hard considering the unfaithful antics of her spouse. Thankfully, and in the nick of time, Henry meets the free spirit Bette (Amanda Crew), the type of girl who literally skips through the rain and jumps in puddles. Will this outgoing bundle of kindling help get this family through their ordeal? Will she help to break Henry’s virginal, egg-head brother out of his funk? Will Henry’s charming, handsome boss with a heart of gold (who is unbelievably unmarried himself) win the affections of the heartbroken damsel? And by the end will anyone give a single solitary *bleep*?
It’s the Bette character, supposed to be the dynamic lifeblood of Crazy Kind of Love, that utterly guts what remaining zeal the film may have possessed, presenting us with one of the most phony, inorganically promiscuous and straight-up grating characters in recent memory. After (wait for it) moving in with Henry and his brother and mom (don’t ask) she continues to be a big ol’ firecracker, spouting cheerfully inappropriate cliché at junctures, which while uneasy to watch as a viewer, ring utterly false in the context of the scenes. Not only that, the way characters react to her untethered zip is simply moronic. In one scene we’re supposed to believe that Madsen’s Augusta would respond favourably to Bette (a person she has met all but once) bursting into her room with trash magazines, Cheetos and a plan to break her out of her very reasonable stupor. The fact that it works is only one of many other transgressions.
This character is being presented as the outlier (and I’m not talking about the type of film which has uppity people turning their nose up at this free spirit, or something of the like) – no. This girl is mentally deranged. She puts the crazy in Crazy Kind of Love (hint: that kind of love usually involves a restraining order). From the aforementioned adorable little initial rendezvous Henry and Bette share, it’s made clear we’re dealing with another level of spry. If Juno raised her daughter as a slutty hipster, we’d get Bette and the rate at which this bond develops is faster than a redundant montage (a cliché incidentally missing). The only relationships that mature so quickly are ones that end in the alleyway behind a bar, and judging by how this girl acts, she’s familiar with the terrain. These are the most contrived soul mates of all time.
The dynamic kink is an important one in films like this – throwing a jalapeño into a pot of vanilla so to speak. But we need the organic twist to what is supposed to be preordained formula. The fantastic indie City Island did it wonderfully with an inmate returning to live with the man he doesn’t know is his father. Even in more limited instances, such as in the important relationship between Matt King and his daughter’s boyfriend in The Descendants, it works so well. And speaking of fathers, we never get to know Henry’s in Crazy Kind of Love, only that he cheated and he’s a jerk. What caused this to happen? Are all men simply scum? The feminist leanings and women behind the camera seem to think so. I don’t intend to say all females in the business fall victim to this mantra, as men are equally guilty of crafting broad, often insulting caricatures but that certainly doesn’t excuse what happens here.
During one scene regarding Augusta’s state, Bette remarks that being sad doesn’t make you crazy, being crazy makes you crazy. In that instance, true words were spoken. It’s simply ironic she didn’t know she was speaking autobiographically. So, yes, by the end of Crazy Kind of Love I was left smiling. Unfortunately, that feeling mirth could be attributed only to the all encompassing froth that seeped under my skin like an unobtainable sliver and the amount of times everything on display made me laugh involuntarily and unintentionally. The type of film that can be summed up with the poster, Crazy Kind of Love is also the type of cinematic dreck that dares you not to guess every upcoming contrivance and then forces you to feel somewhat guilty as you laugh at it fulfilling its destiny.