xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
"Crime and Punishment in Suburbia" is no doubt "flawed"--that favorite moviecrit word--and it suffers from being released a year after the similar "American Beauty," even though it was made earlier. But it is the kind of movie that lives and breathes; I forgive its shortcomings because it strives, and because it contains excellent things. To lean back and dismiss this movie, as most critics have done, is to show ingratitude. A messy but hungry film like this is more interesting than cool technical perfection.
The story is a dark, juicy melodrama involving the kinds of things that happen only in soap operas and in real life. Imagine "American Beauty" told from the point of view of the cheerleader. Her name is Roseanne (Monica Keena), and she is popular in school, where she dates the quarterback of the football team. But there is a cloud in her eyes, an inner failure to believe in herself. At home, where the dinner table creates an eerie echo of "American Beauty," we see that her stepfather (Michael Ironside) is a pathetic drunk and her mother (Ellen Barkin) is fed up--not that her mother is a saint, either.
All of this is observed by a classmate named Vincent (Vincent Kartheiser), who silently sits behind her in the movies, who lurks across the street from her house, who takes her picture with a telephoto lens and fits the profile of a stalker. But there is more to Vincent. He is a complicated boy with an angelic face, and a mom who looks at him and says, "It's gonna be so interesting to see what you're like after you get out of this stage." Taking a clue from the movie's title, we wonder if he represents Raskolnikov, the hero of Dostoyevsky's novel. But director Rob Schmidt and writer Larry Gross have borrowed little other than the title and the workings of guilty emotions from Crime and Punishment. Vincent seems inspired more by the angels in "Wings of Desire," who keep secret watch over their humans, want to help them and finally descend to the physical level so they can touch and heal them.
Roseanne needs healing. She needs somebody who sees her--not the popular blond cheerleader, but the girl whose home life is hell and whose boyfriend is painfully limited. She needs a boy she can sing with, but she's never heard the song. Keena does a great deal with Roseanne, a character who is herself an actress--pretending to be a daughter, a girlfriend, a cheerleader, all the time screaming inside.