>   These two high school students couldn't be more different. He aims to attend the Naval Academy, she aims to get drunk and wear Iron Maiden t-shirts.
   It seems like a pretty hokey beginning to an overdone movie genre, the kind where two people from different sides of the tracks fall in love, but crazy/beautiful is filled with intelligence and offers us a refreshing look into a story idea that's been done a dozen times before.
   On one side, there's Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst), the white daughter of a rich congressman (Bruce Davison). On the other, there's Latino Carlos Nunez (Jay Hernandez), who lives in a fairly bleak area of Los Angeles.
   But Carlos isn't the one who has problems, as may have been the case in a more stereotypical film. It's Nicole, who spends most of her days being more drunk than sober.
   For a DUI conviction, Nicole is given trash duty at a local beach and that's where she first meets Carlos, who spots her from a distance.
   The two exchange small talk, figure out they go to the same school and then part ways until Carlos notices Nicole one day skipping class. She ends up going to one of his football games, gives him a ride home and from then on, the two are inseparable.
   The first half of crazy/beautiful is pretty predictable, but it still has an element of charm. We watch as the two students begin to get romantically involved, ignoring their differences from the onset. The fact that he's a straight-A student doesn't bother her and the fact that she has no goals in life except to get wasted doesn't seem to bother him.
   As the film goes along, though, it begins to get deeper.
   Nicole realizes that Carlos is the best medicine for what's ailing her, while Carlos doesn't think it's too bad to walk on the edge once in awhile. This is when the relationship starts to border around love.
   That's why things become difficult when Nicole's father tells Carlos to stay away from his daughter, not because he doesn't think Carlos is worthy, but because he doesn't think his daughter is worthy of Carlos.
   The ending of crazy/beautiful is worth the price of five movie admissions, because the way the characters act on screen is so rare. The last 15 minutes or so are spent between Nicole talking out her differences with her father and Nicole talking out her feelings with Carlos.
   These conversations seem genuine. The film doesn't try to fool us by giving us a violent ending or only a partial resolution. I especially was impressed with the scene where Nicole looks at her dad and asks, "I know I'm not an easy person to love, but would you at least try?"
   I was truly surprised by this film. I guess it's mostly because I wasn't expecting it to be this smart, this good and this full of charm.
   The story and characters aren't the only gems in the film, however. Dunst, Hernandez and Davison deliver right on performances, in roles that give them a lot to work with and that challenge them to their potential.
   This is one of the best films of the year.
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