Zac is a sensitive young boy growing up in a large Catholic Quebecois family in the late Sixties. He is "different," something his mum explains, with the guidance of the mystic "tupperware lady," as a gift for healing peoples' burns by thinking about them. But Zac is uncomfortable with the fact that he doesn't like normal boys stuff, and feels constantly put upon by his three elder brothers. At Christmas, which happens also to be his birthday, he wants a pram, but his dad insists on buying an ice hockey game. Mum objects, but dad gets his way. More than anything else Zac wants to be accepted by his doting, but gruff dad. At night, Zac prays to God that he doesn't turn into a "fairy", but the feelings don't go away.
This may not sound like the premise for a box office smash, but C.R.A.Z.Y. has proved to be one of the most successful films ever at the Quebec box office.
The story is as much about looking for paternal acceptance, as the sexual confusion of a boy turning into a man, which probably is why it has been so widely appealling. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who casts his own son as the 6-8 year old boy Zac (Emile Vallee), and good-looking groovester Marc-Andre Grondin as the 15 to 21 year old Zac, is careful not to screen anything that would turn off mainstream audiences. At the same, this is a film of emotional depth, humour and intelligent exploration of its subject.
Vallee uses insinuation and creates mood with ease, his experience as a commercial maker showing through in the film's stylish and inventive imagery. The tone of the film is varied, from amusing sketches of family life to scenes delving Zac's inner angst where Vallee's heavy use of Catholic iconography and myth can seem over-portentous. Nevertheless, the pervasive RC mysticism adds to the flagrant Quebecois flavour during this flared-trousered, chain-smoking era spanning the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties. Soundtrack classics like David Bowie's Space Odyssey, Rolling Stones Sympathy For the Devil, and Patsy Cline's pivotal Crazy (the title is also an acronym for the five siblings) add an extra layer of nostalgia.
C.R.A.Z.Y. has a fine ensemble cast, with Michel Cote perfect as the ebullient dad whose paternal love is tempered by his failure to acknowledge his son's feelings. He has good on-screen chemistry with both actors playing the sons. Danielle Proulx as the mother who indulges her son when dad isn't looking, grows in stature throughout, and Alex Gravel is memorable as the leather-trousered, waster brother Raymond.
At 129 minutes, the film's too long (maybe dad shouldn't have been allowed to do his party piece, singing along to Charles Aznavour, so many times), but not drastically long. All the ingredients are here to keep you hooked until the bitter-sweet resolution.