Crazy Eyes was spawned by the same boozy mentality (and, sometimes, sentimentality) that has inspired the work of everyone from Dylan Thomas to Charles Bukowski.
If Adam Sherman's film, now in limited release, occasionally wobbles under the delusion that alcoholics are actually visionaries and their bad behavior comprises the antics of a demented genius, well, it doesn't do so very often.
Instead, Sherman's tale of Adam, an increasingly self-destructive young electronics gazillionaire (by all appearances) played by Lukas Haas, has a certain belligerent charm. That charm may prove elusive to some viewers, but stick with it.
Adam's not a bad guy, just a lazy one. He obviously got too much, too soon. He doesn't have to work for a living and doesn't want to have to work for it anymore -- woman-wise -- if he doesn't have to. He's got an ex-wife and a son he sees when he remembers it's his day for shared custody.
He spends most of his time hanging out at the dive bar where his pal Dan the bartender (Jake Busey) watches him pick up girls and helps him beat up their boyfriends when they object to Dan's poaching.
Then he meets Rebecca (Madeline Zima), who he dubs Crazy Eyes -- and he can't have her. She won't have sex with him, she says, because she has a boyfriend. Oh, she'll make out with Adam and even sleep in the same bed with him. But she's also just as likely to haul off and sock him in the jaw. And she packs a punch, even for someone as drunk as he is.
The rest of the film chronicles Adam's increasingly inebriated assault of Mt. Crazy Eyes, though he is repeatedly thwarted in his attempts at mounting her. His preoccupation with her bleeds over into his barely cogent personal life, with only the most tenuous connections to his parents (Ray Wise and Valerie Mahaffey) and his wife (Moran Atias). He plugs in a little more (only slightly) when he has custody of his young son.
And that's what the movie is: a front-row seat to one young man's downward slide and the surprising ability he has to make you care what happens to him. Haas has been in front of the camera since he was 7, in Witness and Testament. Now 36, he possesses an innate, even goofy likability that somehow bleeds through into this self-involved slacker. He offsets Zima's giggly actorishness, thankfully.
A movie like this (or Barfly or Leaving Las Vegas), with their mostly unromantic view of alcoholism and its effects, is a hard sell unless you've got an appetite for self-destruction. Haas makes Crazy Eyes surprisingly digestible.
Find more reviews, interviews and commentary on my website.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine