As a romantic subgenre, the alcoholic love story doesn’t typically hit upon anything fantastically new or groundbreaking – drink, fight, cry, love, repeat until something terrible happens – but director and co-writer Adam Sherman and his charming cast have done something wonderful with their Crazy Eyes. Sherman and stars Lukas Haas and Madeline Zima have injected life and humor into their story of two shiftless Hollywood alcoholics and their maybe-love story. In terms of fitting into its genre, Crazy Eyes feels a bit like a more light-hearted Leaving Las Vegas or a more energetic Somewhere – comparisons that are meant as compliments.
Before we even meet Haas’ Zach, he warns us via voiceover that his story is true, and that the movie’s “all persons fictitious” disclaimer (the “is purely coincidental” paragraph that accompanies works of fiction) is a lie of its own. But Zack is a drunk, a boozehound, an alcoholic of the highest order – and someone who wakes up with a hangover and can’t remember if he drank the night before might not be the most reliable of narrators. A Hollywood millionaire (through means we’re never quite informed of), Zack spends his days calling women for dates, getting drunk, and making a mess of his limited responsibilities. On the night that Crazy Eyes opens, Zack has scored a date with Zima’s Rebecca (who he calls “Crazy Eyes”), who is just as lost and drunk as he is. The only things that Zack and Rebecca have in common are their mutual love for alcohol and their mutual disdain for other people. If Zack and Rebecca don’t sound like sympathetic or even likable characters, that’s because they aren’t, but both Haas and Zima find the facets of their characters and play them to a bizarrely charming and enjoyable effect.
The pair embarks on an unexpectedly deep and important friendship that is marked by Zach’s continued attempts to bed Rebecca, and her constant rebuffs (she claims she has a boyfriend, she says she needs to be choked unconscious to have sex, they’re both always too drunk) of his advances. As the film unfolds, Zach’s life is thrown into further turmoil, thanks to a sick father, an unhappy kid, a needy ex-girlfriend, and a financially dependent ex-wife. Rebecca’s refusal to make their growing affection physical doesn’t help matters, and both of them continue to spiral downward.
And though this all sounds dark and sad, Crazy Eyes frequently hits great moments of humor (Zach’s best friend, played by Jake Busey, predictably adds some fun) and despite the bleakness of both Zach and Rebecca’s lives and their relationship, they are lovely and engaging to watch. The film’s soundtrack is of particular import, with Bobby Johnston’s frisky and French farce-inspired score proving essential to lightening the mood when things get too rough, though the rest of his work is also effective and beautiful, much like Crazy Eyes as a whole.
The Upside: Beautiful performances; dark humor; a surprisingly sexy and charming love story between two broken people.
The Downside: Over-the-top jokes that could read as offensive; a relatively small-scale worldview.