No ordinary coming-of-age drama

C.R.A.Z.Y. , Running time: 127 minutes, Rating: MA. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée, Starring: Michel Côté, Marc-André Grondin, Danielle Proulx, Pierre-Luc Brillant

C.R.A.Z.Y.It’s hard to convey why this French-Canadian drama is so good. That’s because the film is energised largely by the superb retro music that features in its soundtrack, which not only helps evoke the backdrop of 1960s Montreal, but provides much of the film’s atmospheric and thematic lifeblood.

Take, for example, one scene in which misfit teen protagonist Zac (played at ages six–eight by Émile Vallée and 15–21 by Grondin) gives an impassioned performance of David Bowie’s 'Space Oddity' to his bedroom mirror. Not only does this stirringly showcase Zac’s charisma, it signposts his place as a social 'oddity'; indeed, Bowie’s androgynous persona resonates strongly with Zac’s budding sexual ambiguity.

Then there’s the scene where a newly atheist Zac accompanies his family to Midnight Mass at Christmas. Blissed-out on the music playing on his Walkman, Zac daydreams that he’s floating up to the rafters, taking flight as the congregation below 'ooh-oohs' to the refrain of the Stones’ 'Sympathy For the Devil.' More than escapism, the scene reflects Zac’s unconscious desire to transcend the natural order of his world.

C.R.A.Z.Y.And why not wish for transcendence? C.R.A.Z.Y. is Zac’s journey towards self-acceptance, namely accepting the fact he is gay—a journey rendered painfully difficult by his well-meaning but disapproving father (Côté). The weight of his father’s expectations causes Zac—the black sheep among four blokey brothers—to both repress and loathe his sexuality for many years. (Incidentally, the five brothers’ initials—Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zac and Yvan—give the film its acronymic title, flagging the centrality of family to Zac’s life and character.)

Zac’s spiritual journey is equally conflicted. As a child, his doting mother (Proulx) encourages him to embrace his apparent spiritual giftedness as a faith healer. Zac initially does so with some zeal; later, however, his inability to 'heal' either his own asthma or the perceived infirmity of his sexuality, renders his faith troubled at best.

C.R.A.Z.Y.If C.R.A.Z.Y.’s soundtrack is its lifeblood, than Grondin is its heart. The then 21-year-old’s otherworldly looks and brooding magnetism are as much James Dean as Bowie, and he injects the ideal amount of sardonic wit, devil-may-care attitude and subtle pathos into his character’s grudging but compelling passage towards self-discovery.

True, much of act two discards the style and pace that so elevates the film’s earlier sequences, instead getting bogged down in some fairly angsty, soul-searching territory. But still, the rousing levity and poignant insightfulness that permeate the bulk of the film are more than enough to give wings to what could otherwise have been a fairly run-of-the-mill coming-of-age drama.

 

 

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