Written by Caballero Oscuro
Zachary is the fourth of five sons in a French Canadian family, with the first initial of each son’s name contributing a letter to the title of this film. He was born on Christmas Day, and is rumored to have magic healing powers as a result. He’s also unsure of his sexuality, a confusing situation made no easier by his conservative father and a thuggish older brother. Over the course of two decades, we watch Zachary grow from a sensitive young boy to a conflicted, odd adult, highlighting key steps in his development along the way.
At first glance, C.R.A.Z.Y. appears to be a gay-themed film, but Zachary is so unwilling to embrace his own sexuality that his orientation is never explicitly clear until the final scene. Instead, the film becomes more of a disjointed family drama, with substantial time spent exploring Zachary’s relationship with his parents and his least favorite brother. Dad is a straight arrow who cannot tolerate the idea of Zachary’s deviant behavior, while his oldest brother Christian is a tough, drug-addicted loser who is more interested in borrowing money to support his habit than participating in any constructive dialogue.
The film begins with Zachary as a young boy at the ages of six and eight, but rather than just providing a quick backstory it lingers far too long in this timeframe, sucking up about a quarter of the film’s length. This allows the audience to get a full idea of the initial family dynamic but doesn’t add much to the overall scope rather than prolonging the running time. We see young Zachary scolded for breaking one of his father’s favorite records, a rare import of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” (natch), setting up the inevitable resurfacing of the record later in the film. We see his initial confusion about his sexual orientation, but not enough to give a clear indication of which direction he might end up later in life. Zachary’s mother coddles him as a child, allowing him to pursue more feminine interests, while his father tries to steer him in the right direction by buying him a different musical instrument or sports-themed gift each year.
From his teens on, the character of Zachary is played by Marc-André Grondin, easily the best aspect of the film. He expertly conveys the deep-seated confusion and emotions of the character, while also morphing his character’s appearance through various styles of the '70s and early '80s. He’s adept at portraying both the sensitive and masculine aspects of the character, making the character’s confusion all the more palpable. Zachary is the product of a Catholic, macho family in a conservative neighborhood, so his repressed longings mark him as an outsider far before he decides his destiny. He prays and hopes that he isn’t gay, he believes it’s wrong and doesn’t want to succumb to temptation, and even in the film’s final act he’s denying his longings to his family and himself.
While the film is worth seeing and remains interesting throughout its nearly two hour length, it loses effectiveness through its scattered themes. It’s never clear whether it wants to be a gay film, an exploration of a son’s relationship with his father, a study of the five very different brothers and their interactions, or just a coming of age tale colored by the styles and music of its era. Worse, it jumps around between its different themes with abandon, frequently following key developments in one storyline with unrelated actions in another, losing its momentum in the process. Even the seemingly primary exploration of Zachary’s orientation is somewhat unsatisfying due to its constant ambiguity, alternating between his fantasies about a man and lip synching to David Bowie to his relationship with his girlfriend and his thrashing of a fellow suspected homosexual. His “straight” actions can be viewed as his own coping mechanism as he tries to fight his inherent tendencies, but there’s never enough free reign given to those stifled tendencies to definitively draw that conclusion.
Aside from its plot shortcomings, the film looks extremely polished and has strong performances all around. It also does a fantastic job of capturing the flavor of its setting in the '60s, '70s and early '80s, with believable fashion, décor and music. C.R.A.Z.Y. is now available on DVD, for more information visit the film’s website.