Review by James Lindorf
Krystal, the latest film from director and venerable character actor William H. Macy, stars Nick Robinson (Love Simon, Jurassic World) as Tyler and Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Unforgettable) as the titular Krystal. Filmed almost entirely in Georgia, with a budget of around 3 million dollars, this movie is a bit of a mash-up of something like, This is Where I Leave You and the FX show Legion. It is 95% comedic family drama with just a dash of psychedelic mind tricks. The story focuses on a small group, but the cast is filled with names and faces you know. Taylor’s parents are played by real-life husband and wife William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, and his brother is The Flash’s Grant Guston. That is just the tip of the iceberg, with the likes of Jacob Latimore, Kathy Bates, Rick Fox, William Fichtner and Christopher “T.I.” Harris rounding out the supporting cast. This Great Point Media feature will be hitting select theaters on Friday, April 13th.
Despite the film being titled Krystal, the main character is actually the 18-year-old embodiment of a genteel Southern gentleman, Tyler, who suffers from Paroxysmal atrial tachycardia (PAT), a condition that causes his heart to race when he becomes too excited or stressed. If he has an episode, and it goes unabated, it could cause catastrophic heart failure. Tyler spends his time not living so that he can continue to live. When he meets Krystal on the beach one morning, she changes his life and nearly kills him in the same instance. After that, the once lonely teen is smitten, going to near stalker lengths to spend more time with the mysterious woman. Wooing her proves to be a difficult and unsupported task. She is old enough to be his mother, is an alcoholic, addict, former stripper, and prostitute, not to mention she has a troubling ex-boyfriend and a son that is just two years younger than Tyler.
I really like the film that Macy and writer, Will Aldis, gave us. It is quirky and dark, while relying heavily on its humor. The cast is able to put forth very good performances, at least emotionally. Accent-wise, some were less successful than others. The fact that most of the big names were doing Macy a favor by appearing in the film, and not taking their normal fees, allowed the budget to be stretched much further than it normally would. This is especially the case in the realm of CGI, which I am sure most people didn’t expect to come into this movie.
The quirky comedy is front and center in this film, which is to be expected with William H. Macy at the helm. The movie is flooded with unusual southern turns of phrase, which were delivered best by Kathy Bates. There is the befuddled emergency room physician, an unusual chase scene and a stylized version of the devil that makes several appearances. The devil is the psychedelic imagery I mentioned earlier, and he appears several times throughout the film, particularly when someone is not doing well in a medical sense. It first manifests for Tyler as he’s having a PAT attack during one of his father’s sermons, and then follows him throughout the film. It doesn’t end there, because Tyler isn’t the only one visited by the devil.
While I enjoyed the comedy, I think they missed out on what the movie could have been. The opportunity to explore the effects of a life-threatening illness like PAT on a young person, or the struggles of a single mom with a history of addiction, was right there. I think if they would have chosen one of the more dramatic elements to focus on, Krystal would transform from a good movie I’d watch again into something that would garner attention, come awards season. Instead, they chose to focus on the absurd side of the situation, which still produced a good film, just one with a little less depth and emotional impact.
I am sure that there will be complaints about Tyler’s actions in this film during his pursuit of Krystal. Personally, he goes further than I would, but his actions are that of a love-sick puppy. It is shown that she enjoys the attention of someone she thinks is a good guy. We also see that she is capable of making him think twice. I believe the movie showed that his actions shouldn’t be emulated by having them frequently blow up in his face.
This was a solid movie that could have been something great with a few alterations, but I still would recommend what we were given.