Thursday, October 06, 2011

Crazy For You

Directed by Drew Barrymore, United States, 2011, 11 Minutes
Actors: Chloë Moretz, Tyler Posey, Alia Shawkat,Miranda Cosgrove, Shailene Woodley

This film is a modern day retailing of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (R&J), or more specifically, its successor, West Side Story. This film follows two gangs. One is dressed in neon colors and called the Day Trotters, and one is dressed in black leather and called the Night Creepers. Within these two gangs, there is a boy, Lucky, from the Day Trotters and a girl, Veronica, from the Night Creepers who inevitably fall in love and want different peaceful lives. The two young lovers have a secret affair for a few days and only communicate through writing on their hands, and the tragic instance of graffiti on the wall. After a misunderstanding, their teen love affair comes to an end. When a gang fight erupts between the two gangs due to a brutal beating of the Night Creeper's
female leader's sister, Veronica pushes Lucky accidentally off the roof, and learns of his true answer to her palm question too late.

I have never been a fan of Romeo and Juliet, but this film does do a modern adaptation of the play--and amazingly does it without dialogue. The only dialogue we get is from Night Creeper's gang leader, played by Alia Shawkat, and it is one of anger and hate, a very important and sad emotion that is exists in R&J. In addition to Alia Shawkat, this film is full of young up-and-coming stars:
Chloë Moretz as Veronica, Tyler Posey as Lucky, Miranda Cosgrove as the beat up gang member, and many more. I am not sure this film would have been made if Drew Barrymore, a well-known actress herself, had not directed it. This film is characteristic of a Drew Barrymore piece. From Charlie's Angels to Whip It, Barrymore has a distinct 1980's clothing cut and colors styling. As far as quality, this film, partnered with MTV, is of high quality--high quality as both a short and a music video for the band Best Coast and their song "Our Deal". Also, I really enjoy how Lucky is a combination of both Tony and Bernardo from West Side Story, two males that greatly affect Maria and her view on society.

This film is a successful modern retelling of a classic play for the MTV/Reality TV age. It also follows the frustration of the play elegantly. In the play, you always want to yell at Romeo to stop taking the poison as Juliet awakes. This film evokes the same frustration when we watch Lucky, who is not lucky, write "I can't" and then disappear to the other side of the wall. Of course, Veronica does not notice the rest of the answer until Lucky is already on the pavement dying. Why does he have to be so dimwitted and write the two most disappointing and most misleading words to answer her question on the wall she is standing closest too? Also, playing on the similarities of its predecessor West Side Story, the fight at the end of the film is dance fighting, which also goes with the music. Furthermore, this film is effective because it promotes love, not violence--something every generation needs to remember. I think, though, that this film is ineffective because it deals with two gangs that control the same streets different times of day, so why is it necessary for them to fight? In West Side Story there is racial discrimination as well as youths trying to control the same streets the same time of day. Also, this is meant to be a music video. I did not realize this fact until I watched it for the second time. The film plays to the music, but the music gets lost in the film at the same time.

One last note: I am really happy to see Chloë Moretz in another film. She is great in both Kick-Ass and (500) Days of Summer. Also, without looking, does anyone recognize the actor who plays Lucky? That's right. He plays Jennifer Lopez's son in Maid in Manhattan. Crazy.


alerosa said...

Very interesting combination of actors here (especially Miranda Crosgrove, this is not something I would have expected to see her in). That said I enjoyed the heavy styling of the cast and set but wish there had been a bit more feeling to the piece. The tragedy of West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet didn't come through for me in this piece, I don't think the flow of the film built of the romance of the young lovers enough for me.

Alex (via Italia!) said...

It is so funny that you mentioned the "Day" and "Night" issue. I didn't realize that. Why should they care about the other gang when they can easily stay out of each others way? Also, you're right that the race discrimination part is taken out of the mix. I think Alicia Keys' "Unthinkable" does a better job at touching upon R&J-like issues. "Unthinkable" is also like a short film. It plays out the same story over different decades in American history.

Shana said...

Recently I've been so obsessed with tragedy and feel like you picked this just for me.. even if you didn't. I found this short phenomenal mostly because of the lack of dialogue. While the actors are all young and up and coming, I don't like they'd be able to portray the type of tragedy portrayed here if they were made to talk. It allows for a more adult feeling of the characters. As morbid as this is going to sound, Veronica probably should have killed herself at the end. Not only would that follow R&J but it would also follow her character. She doesn't seem to be very happy with the trapped life she leads (much like Juliet) and was looking for her chance at freedom. Lucky's death destroyed her chance. Lastly, I get a strong feeling of female strength throughout the short, probably because there is no men dialogue and the gangs have active women characters. Over all, great choice, loved it. I'm also pretty obsessed with Drew Barrymore's punk rock directing abilities.

haley schattner said...

The reason why I mention West Side Story so often in my piece is that, because Veronica lives, the stories are more similar. Yes, I agree with you Shana that I love the strong female power presence in this film--it is also very Drew Barrymore-esque.

Cori said...

I found your comments on the day vs night issue and call-out on why anyone would write an important message on two sides of a wall insightful. While I appreciate that Barrymore tackled a 'modern day retelling' of R&S or WSS, I have the following issues with this:
a. If this is intended to be modern, its not at all relevant. West Side Story was a successful retelling of Romeo and Juliet because it highlighted tensions between ethnic populations in mid-century New York. It was an important story to tell and one that many could relate to. This seems to attempt to showcase L.A. gangs, but they look more like two groups of brooding hipsters. I'm not aware of the hipster socio-politics in LA, but in Williamsburg, they're fairly peaceful to my knowledge. Don't no East Bushwick kids be getting up in the grills of the Bedford Ave Bunch. In short, I wish this had been a more brave, more relevant critique on stigmas and xenophobia.
b. While some of the plot reflected the music that was playing, overall it distracted from the music. The music felt like a sideshow to Barrymore showcasing her directing chops. The film entirely felt too self-conscious to let the music speak for it--let alone for itself.
c. The direction felt clunky, because of some of the aforementioned reasons: forced plot devices, awkwardly inserted dialogue, marginalized music track, kitsch retro styling.
d. I watched this before going to bed, and I don't know why, but I had bad dreams afterwards. Bad or good? Discuss.

Ryan Trent Williams said...

Interesting analysis, and I agree that it does a good job retelling the Romeo and Juliet story, but I want to ask something that you didn't pose in your write-up: What do you have to say about the use of music, especially since it is a Best Coast music video? I don't particularly enjoy it because it seems like a short posing as a music video. The video is not really edited to the music, nor does anything to truly incorporate the song. It is like that crap you see in high school video courses, where it is just kids shoving each other, saying stuff you can't here either because they deleted the dialogue or have a bad mic on their camcorders, and overblown music that doesn't particularly fit is played over the imagery.

Also, to address Cori's comment: I don't think this has anything to do LA gangs, nor is promoting it. LA is not 1980s Coney Island, and we don't have juvenile leather gangs roaming the streets.

haley schattner said...

I don't think this video does anything for the music, except for possibly the repeating dialogue of the song that says, "I wish you would tell me how you really feel..." or "I wish you was my boyfriend", but the video does not do anything for these dialogues except literally represent them. The acting in this video is done better silently. I like Alia Shawkat but her lines--the only ones spoken in the film--seem forced. Also, I did not mention this in my blurb, but what is with Veronica's one long different colored nail?

Anastasia Crittenton said...

I'm still trying to get over that Lucky is the kid from Maid in Manhattan (partly because I just watched that - mostly for Ralph Fiennes, haha). My brain's having problems processing that.

I think your analysis is very interesting, though, and you make some really good points on it as a modern-day re-telling of such a famous story.

Catherine said...

You know, I found it really interesting as a concept, but slightly predictable in the execution. But I really liked the dancing fighting. Capoeira is amazing.

haley schattner said...

I am not sure the film is predictable as much as unnecessary. Barrymore takes chances with different camera angles, but her story line falls short to her neon hipster gang stylization.