1/4, 1990s, Drama, Ralph Bakshi, Review

Cool and the Crazy

#8 in my ranking of Ralph Bakshi’s filmography.

With Cool World being a critical and commercial bust, Ralph Bakshi found his last feature film work making a movie for Showtime based on a script he’d had laying around for more than twenty years. Well, it certainly does feel like the work of a much younger and inexperienced filmmaker than someone who had been making feature films since the early 70s, but this is Ralph Bakshi we’re talking about. Getting the young talents of future stars Alicia Silverstone and Jared Leto is kind of amazing considering, and Leto in particular does everything he can. However, the film is just an endless stream of thin cliches, dull caricatures, and half-thought out tripe in the guise of wisdom, holding no real interest from beginning to end.

Michael (Leto) and Roslyn (Silverstone) are high school sweethearts who married right after school, had a baby, and are struggling to find the happiness they expected from the American dream. He doesn’t get paid enough and is gone too long. She has to take care of the baby (and also works? I think), and their sex life is boring. Roslyn’s friend Joannie (Jennifer Blanc) begins an affair, and it makes her happier, opening up the idea to Roslyn who decides to take a ride home from Joey (Matthew Flint) one day when she catches his eye. They’re quickly having an affair (the seduction scene is so on the nose and unsexy it could only come from Bakshi), and Michael figures it out. There are fights and screaming. Roslyn and Joannie are completely disgusted that Michael would even consider the idea that they were having affairs. Roslyn and Michael end up splitting after Roslyn won’t stop hanging out with Joannie.

Michael hooks up with a coworker, Lorraine (Christine Harnos), who is a beatnik and can’t believe, like, all of Michaels bougie hangups, man. She tells him off by saying something about how he wants something that can’t exist: a happy marriage, essentially. The Roslyn Joey affair grows with Joey hating his own wife, being a general thug, dealing drugs sometimes, killing people other times, and lording over Roslyn while manipulating her easily. Joannie and Roslyn realize they had it good with their husbands even if life was kind of dull, there’s an attempt at reconciliation, but we need an action ending so there’s some ruckus in the café, a car chase, and an attempted murder to iron things out. And then…Michael and Roslyn don’t actually end up together?

I just can’t with this movie. It’s a completely uninteresting vignette of half-remembered mores being broken forty years after they were broken and left behind, the kinds of things that Bakshi had been making fun of to one degree or another since Fritz the Cat. It’s just told in a straight, melodramatic style this time instead of with animated characters and some kind of supposedly slick satirical edge (that his earlier films never really had anyway).

As I wrote earlier, Leto gives the role of Michael his all, but Michael is more caricature than character, so his valiant efforts only go so far. Silverstone is more out of her depth (she’s just honestly not a great actress) in a role that honestly should have been a walk in the park. The only performance really worth paying attention to is Flint as Joey, and that’s mostly because he’s the one allowed to go furthest in terms of the actual crazy that the film’s title implies. It’s mostly empty show, though. There’s nothing to really grasp onto here.

I really just see this as the final proof that Ralph Bakshi simply had no idea what he was doing when he set out to make a career in feature films. This is the last nail in the coffin of his career, and it was rightfully earned. That it’s mostly just boring instead of animatingly dreadful is something, I guess, though.

Rating: 1/4


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