April 14, 2018 Krystal (Movie Review)
Yes, with a K. It was originally with a C, but they went with the K in the end.
William H. Macy (Fargo 1996. Marmaduke 2010) has had a notable career as an actor, but what he really wanted to do was direct.
Actually, probably not. It is just an old joke about actors wanting to be directors. Although, Macy does have directing experience, going as far back as 1988 to a TV movie called Lip Service. He did not dabble in much directing after that until 2014, where he directed a Selena Gomez short (Hold On) and the feature film Rudderless. Last year, he returned to the director’s chair for two films; The Layover, and Krystal. The former was about two women fighting over the same man like in an old school Archie comic. The latter, Krystal, is a Comedy-Drama produced by Paladin and Great Point Media and hits about 85 theaters on Friday, April 13, 2018. But what is it about?
It is about Taylor Ogburn (Nick Robinson: Jurassic World 2015, Boardwalk Empire series), a sheltered young man from the South who does not get adventurous. He cannot even go to college due to a strange heart condition, let alone drink or do drugs. Then he finds love in the most unlikely place; with a former alcoholic, former junkie/ex-stripper-cum-hooker single mom called Krystal (Rosario Dawson: Alexander 2004, Sin City 2005). Taylor pretends to be in AA just to woo her, much to the chagrin of his high-flying family. Can he get to grips with Krystal’s past? Can he even get to grips with his own problems?
Krystal was meant to start shooting back in February 2015, but it ended up getting delayed. This likely caused some of the originally announced stars – Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games 2012), Sienna Miller (American Sniper 2014) and Jane Fonda (Barbarella 1968) amongst others – to drop out. That is, if they were set in stone to begin with rather than in talks. Felicity Huffman (Transamerica 2005, Desperate Housewives series) was one of the few originals to make it through to the finished film. That is not to say it is lacking in star power; it already has Dawson, but it also has Kathy Bates (Misery 1990), William Fichtner (Armageddon 1998) and Macy himself.
Still, it is here now, and what is it like? Well, it almost ticks all the boxes on the “Indie” Film Bingo Card. It has the acoustic guitar soundtrack, the humble Americana town setting, quirky yet charming dialogue (“Who needs Satan when we have Republicans?”), et al. It is just missing the chalkboard credit font, embroideries and kitschy interior design. If Robinson’s Taylor had something odd about his looks than his heart (figuratively and literally), the film could have been the next Napoleon Dynamite. If anything, Taylor is comparatively ordinary compared to his intellectual dad Wyatt (Macy), poet mother Poppy (Huffman), and artist brother Campbell (Grant Gustin: Arrow series, The Flash series).
Which is likely the point. He is the middle man trying to find out which side of the tracks he stands with; the one pretending to be high class, or the one that seems low class but is true to itself. If that sounds like a fancy way of describing a poser-learns-to-be-real story, then that is how the dialogue feels. It is charming and entertainingly written, but it does feel like it is grandstanding at points. Sometimes it is intentional – like Taylor trying to imitate the hard-living biker Bo (Rick Fox: Oz series, Shameless US series). But other times, when it is trying to be real, it feels artificial. Less down-to-earth and more down-to-the-height-of-the-cornfields-in-Kansas-my-son-mmhmm.
The cast do their best with it though. Robinson does a convincing job as Taylor, a familiar if not relatable character. He is trying to appear more experienced than he is, which brings some sympathy as well as chuckles and cringes. Dawson’s Krystal is similar in that she is trying to move on from her her past. She has her own baggage to deal with, be it her looming ex Willie (TI: Identity Thief 2013, Ant-Man 2015) or her handicapped son Bobby (Jacob Latimore: Vanishing on 7th Street 2010, Collateral Beauty 2016). Adding someone else’s on top of it is not an attractive prospect, and she makes that a clear point. Viewers will want the best for her and Taylor, but whether they are the best for each other is a trickier question to answer. In fact, it takes until the final act to see how it turns out.
The rest of the cast are not exactly slouches either. Latimore’s Bobby and TI’s Willie are no-nonsense figures as the wheelchair-bound delinquent and extravagantly verbose villain respectively. Largely because the nonsense is saved for Macy, Huffman, Gustin, and Fichtner as the Ogburn family and Dr Farley. They bounce off Robinson and Dawson with their own foibles. The Ogburn’s and the Doctor ignore their faults while Taylor and Krystal are working on theirs. They cover them up through big language, procedural jargon or for their craft, and suffer for it. It makes them a little sad in a way, but mostly funny as they drive Robinson and Dawson’s characters to the brink.
The film is technically sound too. It does not get too fancy with the camerawork, but it adds a few nice touches. The nicest one happens during the introduction, where the audience is told one story while the other happens in the background. It even has room for some CG effects for a few, brief sequences. They are not exactly ILM near-perfect, but the early 2000’s-quality adds to the surreal nature of the scenes, so it works in the film’s favor. One could say it, like the camera and sound design, is workman-like; it does the job and sticks to it.
Then again, that could describe Krystal overall. The direction is fine, as are the editing and sound. It is also acted well by the cast, who deliver a fair story. The dialogue gets too grand and fanciful in places, and the cast has trouble making it sound like something people would say. It can be charming and funny, but not completely engaging. The film does what it seeks out to do, but it is not spellbinding. It is just okay. As such, CrypticRock gives Krystal 3 out of 5 stars.