Home Video Hovel- Crazy Eyes, by Aaron Pinkston
It seems like there are more American independent releases than ever — it’s tough to decide which ones are worth your time. For me, I usually make my decisions by knowing the director’s other work or recognizing an actor. Though he may not be a household name, Crazy Eyes caught mine because of the film’s lead, Lukas Haas. Ever since I saw him as the Pin in Rian Johnson’s wonderful Brick, he’s been an actor that has always stuck out to me. He’s not necessarily a favorite actor of mine, but sometimes it’s nice to see a familiar face get a shot to carry a film. Unfortunately, Crazy Eyes isn’t a hidden gem among the countless indies vying for your attention.
Haas plays Zach, a Los Angeles millionaire, who becomes fascinated by a woman he picked up for a one-night stand who he didn’t end up sleeping with. She becomes “the one who got away” from the sociable and wealthy Zach who never seems to have any problems with the ladies otherwise. Zach spends most of the film (and most of his life) drinking himself into wild stupors and philosophizing on the state of his life, love and “Crazy Eyes” — his pet name for the girl — all conveniently through voice-over narration. Eventually, Zach gets his girl, but just in time to have random encounters with old girlfriends and his ex-wife, who suddenly isn’t opposed to getting the family back together.
While Lukas Haas doesn’t turn his starring opportunity into the showcase of a great actor, Madeline Zima, who plays his love interest Rebecca, gives a good impression. Given the nature of the film’s narrative, she fits snuggly into the “manic pixie dream girl” archetype. While we ultimately don’t learn much about who she is (I guess that’s typical for this type of character), she is a magnetic personality. She gives her character a strong sense of emotion in a pretty emotionless film — that’s not a dig, I think the film is trying to be coldly emotionless, for better or worse.
The film’s look at alcoholism feels real and sad, but that’s not quite enough anymore, with many independent films tackling the subject honestly these days. Though a character based film, you never feel like you really learn anything about these characters, partially due to the fact that they are almost always in a state of drunken belligerence. And, as a film viewer, seeing young people repeatedly wake up with hangovers, only to get drunk again, quickly wears thin. The film becomes a series of similar events, and by the end I felt as if nothing really happened.
Crazy Eyes also uses a lot of shortcuts in its narrative, telling us information instead of showing us. As an example, we’re told a number of times that Zach is a millionaire by characters describing him to others, but we never really know what he does and never see how it really informs his character. Is it absolutely imperative that we know why Zach is a millionaire? No, of course not, but it’s not great storytelling to use keywords for the audience and leave it at that, job done. I was left wondering if the only reason Zach was a millionaire was to get away with him not having to work and instead lounge around all day.
For whatever reason, whenever I see a film full of unlikable characters, I either end up hating the film or loving it — it’s often a fine line between the two. Crazy Eyes lands on its side because I never feel the characters’ problems are taken seriously enough, that their problems don’t seem to have the correct amount of stakes. Though we see Zach’s life is filled real problems, including his alcoholism and his father’s sickness, the film boils down to him being angsty about a girl. If this is what is important to the film, the truly important things don’t pay off when the film tries to invoke a moment of heavy drama.
Strangely, whenever I see a modest American independent film, I usually don’t end up hating or loving it — these modest stories don’t often affect me in a major enough way. This is where I’m ultimately stand on Crazy Eyes. While it’s not a film I particularly liked or would recommend, it’s a film of little impact.