Crazy Eyes Dir. Adam Sherman

[Strand Releasing; 2012]

Styles: drama
Others: Happiness Runs, Barfly

Director Adam Sherman’s latest film is a joyless mess, content to pointlessly meander through a series of barely connected, excruciatingly shallow and — most damning — benignly offensive booze-soaked adventures. Written by four different people including Sherman himself, Crazy Eyes lacks the cohesion necessary to effectively tell the trite story it wants to. Whereas a more experimental feature might actually benefit from such a frenetic and disjointed narrative, this film winds up seeming like a half-assed ode to being a drunken rich lecher (and not in a good way). Also, Crazy Eyes seems altogether way too comfortable with downplaying the moral gravity of rape. And all this is such a shame: Sherman’s feature debut was well received here at Tiny Mix Tapes. Happiness Runs (TMT Review), though far from being an exemplary film, was ambitious in its scope and execution, and it exhibited a level of sophistication and emotional intelligence that we just go crazy for in these parts.

Zach (Lukas Haas) is a very well-to-do divorcée living in the Hollywood Hills, constantly drinking, taking pills, and phoning a seemingly endless parade of casual sexual partners. This in and of itself could be fertile ground for, oh I don’t know, a Shame-esque study of a sex addict’s inability to meaningfully connect with people. Instead, Zach’s antics are fairly boring, and the jokes that accompany his self-destructive behavior read as if they were written by committee (probably because they were). During the course of his endless, self-pitying partying he meets a woman with pretty normal eyes named Rebecca, who for some reason everyone calls Crazy Eyes (Madeline Zima). At first we aren’t sure what problem Zach’s friends have with this 20-something woman, but quickly find out she’s unwilling to have sex with him and he finds this simply unacceptable… Which is literally the only reason for the rest of the movie to take place.

It’s a little pathetic just how hard Crazy-Eyes tries to make a nearly-40 narcissistic millionaire the victim in a relationship power struggle with a working-class, vulnerable young woman. Months into their relationship, when Zach wants sex and Rebecca still won’t acquiesce, he nonchalantly mentions that this far into their relationship it wouldn’t really be rape if he forced himself upon her. Then he informs her that any case she’d bring against him would be thrown out because they’d been dating for as long as they have. Oh yeah, and this scene is played for laughs. The tension between Zach and “Crazy Eyes” is unfulfilling and boring, a result of the filmmakers’ decision to make Zach, all of his lechy decrepitude, seem as physically harmless as possible. It’s almost as if by making him non-threatening, the writing team hoped to excuse his supremely misogynist attitudes and behaviors. Questions about the relationship of power that would naturally arise between a working-class young woman and a nearly middle-aged millionaire never arise, and we’re left to assume that the Sherman & Co. want us to feel bad for a man who has a girl in every port, yet obsesses over the one (young enough to be his daughter) that won’t put out.

The “twist” at the end of Crazy Eyes is insulting, and we’re left wondering if it was the case that each writer invariably thought at one point they should scrap the project, but didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the three other people finding what I’m sure they thought were the most interesting ways to depict a drunken asshole since Schroeder met Bukowski. Although, I have to admit that Laura Palmer’s dad (Ray Wise) was pretty good in the movie.

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