[This review was originally published as part of our South by Southwest Film 2012 coverage. It is being reposted to coincide with its limited theatrical release.]
Crazy Eyes wasn't what I was expecting it to be. I thought it'd be one of those dark indie films that focuses on a realistic depiction of romance and relationships. In a way, that's exactly what it was... It was just... a way too dark and realistic depiction of the nature of relationships.
Crazy Eyes follows Zack (Lukas Haas), a young, divorced father, and the pursuit of a female friend of his, Rebecca (Madeline Zima), whom he refers to as "Crazy Eyes." When he's not actively pursuing to lay Rebecca, he frequents a bar where his best friend, Dan Drake (Jake Busey), tends bar and another girl of the group, Autumn (Tania Raymonde), is a mainstay. As he pursues a sexual relationship with Rebecca, Zack grows increasingly aware of the importance of his son's role in his life amidst the dwindling health of his own father.
The tagline for the film is "Just another love story," which is both ironic and very telling of the plot. Yes, it IS just another love story, but it's reminiscent of "ACTUAL love stories," rather than "MOVIE love stories." At the same time, there's no real love in Crazy Eyes. Rather, Zack's entire pursuit of Rebecca is solely driven by sex. There are moments where, while she's sleeping over, he is way too desperate and forceful of his attempts to lay her, which always get rejected. It's uncomfortable, both in the way in which the scenes play out like a borderline rape, but also because that's just how some guys are.
The main problem with Crazy Eyes is that Zack is not a likable character at all. Films don't necessarily have to make their protagonist likable, especially with films that strive to be as realistic as possible. But without that audience empathy, who will actually care about Zack, or in an extreme extension of that, who will actually care about the film itself? Beyond his pathetic attempts to get with Rebecca, Zack is a raging alcoholic, a womanizer, and narcissistic. There are a few scenes where a man attempts to fight him, at which point Dan Drake defends him while Zack takes advantage of the missing bartender by filling his glass. Zack's ONLY saving graces are his sparse moments with his Dad and his son, but they're not enough to make up for his character.
The problem with Crazy Eyes is that it's just too real. Because of this, it's a bit uncomfortable to watch. The best way to describe it is that there isn't any "movie magic" to save it; that is to say, there aren't any normal movie thematics or elements that would influence the plot to heighten the protagonist's likability. I'm not against realistic films at all, it's just that the majority of them have enough of a separation between art and life. Crazy Eyes was ambitious in countering this, but the end result is just messy and bad. Much like a long day of drinking, Crazy Eyes results in a horrible hangover you regret ever putting yourself through.