Chrystal (2004) Poster

(2004)

User Reviews

Review this title
47 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
A Film as Subtle and Intelligent as a Fine Novel: Gothic Realism
gradyharp4 September 2005
It is rare to come across films as unique and fine tuned as CHRYSTAL, even more so when the only recognizable feature is the big name star on the film's cover. But in this first cinematic outing by the enormously gifted Ray McKinnon there are so many sparks of greatness that they dwell on the screen like glowing embers until the collective heat explodes into a impressive fire of creative skill.

Ray McKinnon both wrote and directed this film and also plays one of the key characters (in an award-deserving performance for supporting actor!). His method of telling a story is as slow and gradual as a festering abscess and he makes his audience stay alert until all of the dots are gradually joined to reveal the whole picture: that takes writing and directing guts in a time when audiences want to be spoon fed linear plots summarized in a sentence. McKinnon's courage (and budgetary constraints) made him cast his film with mostly unknown actors, each of whom performs like seasoned veterans. How much of that is due to the presence of such fine talent as Billy Bob Thornton, Harry Dean Stanton, and Lisa Blount is up for speculation, but it is McKinnon's sure hand both in writing and in directing that makes this little film so pungent and memorable.

Joe (Billy Bob Thornton - in a brilliantly understated performance) returns to a little trashy town in Arkansas in mid Ozarks after a 20 year prison time for drugs, DUI, and attempts to escape: his imprisonment began after a car crash that killed his young son and left his wife Chrystal (Lisa Blount, an actress of tremendous depth) with a broken neck and a broken spirit and soul, living in squalor and providing sex for all of the men and boys of the area. Chrystal is a used, spent, fragile creature, in constant pain from her neck fracture and living like a walking emotional zombie. Joe returns, and without much dialogue cleans the yard and house and land and ensconces himself on the porch of their house, tended only by Chrystal's confused old dog.

Word gets around that Joe, known for his growing of high caliber marijuana before incarceration, has returned and the local smarmy drug king Snake (Ray McKinnon) and his pals attempt to draw Joe back into a life of crime. Joe aches for redemption for his past mistakes, longs to retrieve his marriage with the severely emotionally damaged Chrystal, and is willing to fight to protect his new life. Gruesome encounters with Snake and with the townsfolk ensue. With all of the myriad pieces of this story finally woven into an amazing quilt, Joe and Chrystal come as close to redemption as is feasible.

The story is so much more layered than this too brief synopsis, but revealing more would deprive the viewer of the heady work and rewards of staying with this stunning film. The musical score is spare but eminently appropriate, combining Bruce Springsteen records with original music by Stephen Trask and some haunting Ozark tunes sung by Lisa Blount, Harry Dean Stanton (as Pa Da) and others. The setting is atmospheric and the cinematography by Adam Kimmel captures McKinnon's story's mood impeccably. The cast is some of the finest ensemble acting seen in years, especially in view of the fact that most of the actors have little screen experience.

Sounds like a rave review? Well, it is. This is one extraordinary piece of work and just like the not dissimilar Faulkner novels it takes work, but the payoff is equally satisfying. Highly Recommended - for viewing, for the afterburn of the experience, and for votes for just awards! Grady Harp
43 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Pretty Good flick...
wcampbell-111 April 2005
I am not much of an "indy" film person, but really this didn't look or carry like an independent film. The production quality and the acting were on par or better than any studio release I have seen. It is good in the way that Saving Private Ryan was good. Ultimately it is a pretty depressing story, but a good story none-the-less.

Some of the dialog was down right hilarious which maybe seems misplaced in a dark story of this type but it actually worked to lighten the story overall. I really thought for the most part the acting was from good to great. There are a couple of classic scenes between Ray Mckimmon and Billy Bob Thorton that just steal the movie.

The scenery it's self is a big part of the story as well and some of the shots are just plain beautiful. No offense to the folks in Arkansas, but when you hear Arkansas you don't normally associate it with beauty, but it really is pretty.

So ya ultimately I thought it was a pretty good flick.
27 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
It's just a really good movie!
merice225 April 2005
Life is hard. Love is simple. It's the tag line of the movie and it is the only expectation that you should have when buying the ticket. The extraordinary characters created by writer/director Ray McKinnon and his magnificent cast, show us that sometimes the simple life isn't always as safe as it sounds. Chrystal, played by McKinnon's refreshingly talented wife, Lisa Blount, gives us a roller-coaster ride of emotions and anxiety while she does her best to deal with the "pain" of her life and hold on to the man she loves. Having grown up in the Ozark mountains myself I may be a little biased in saying that the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Ray did a great job of showcasing the rolling hills and majestic views that can only be found in that little known part of the world. This film is loaded with everything that makes a movie worth watching. From solid performances by headline actors like Billy Bob Thorton, to a deep bench of fresh new talent waiting to explode in the business, such as Colin Fickes(Hog) and Max Kasch(Shorty). Ray McKinnon also steps out from behind the camera to give a downright entertaining show as "Snake", a white trash wanna be drug lord of the holler.

For me it's a movie that was more than worth the ticket price. It was a trip home to see some old friends. I'm sure those same friends will raise hell about being shown as simpletons and hillbillies, but sometimes we are. But along with that we are the most real of any people I know and the Ginney Mule team shows that with this movie called "Chrystal."
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
As rich and complex as Ozark culture
tinaromanus17 November 2004
This remarkable and completely unique film had me on the edge of my seat from the moment I heard the haunting music playing on a cello in the opening scene. I knew from the choice of this instrument when most would use a banjo or other traditional instruments common to mountain culture, that I was in for many surprises. The entire score was brilliant.

Ray McKinnon's script and direction is so original and painfully real and passionate. Just when the reality is too much to bear he makes you laugh so hard your belly aches. The acting by the entire cast, including that wonderful dog as broken as the family, is perfection. The fight scene is a ballet and nobody since Peter O'Toole moves as well as Ray McKinnon with such self-abandonment.

His performance as Snake is at once very funny and terrifying. Lisa Blount gives a performance of a lifetime. It is a difficult role which could easily have been one dimensional or overdone but she brings subtlety, nuances and richness to this character that is so fragile that you just want to reach into the screen and comfort her.

Billy Bob Thornton breaks your heart with his strong portrayal of the husband so consumed with guilt that he sets up a situation to allow himself to be beaten into a pulp to be punished for his sin.

The location and production design captures the Ozarker's uncommon and palpable sense of place and the junk sculpture in the yard is such a touching metaphor for a broken family welded together, with hope to heal and create a future. The last moment will take your breath away. I hope this film gets a chance to be seen by everyone. I feel grateful to have discovered it.
28 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Must see
pmccaffe18 April 2005
I went to this movie with no idea of what to expect other than Billy Bob Thornton's usual brilliance. I was blown away, I couldn't decide what I was mesmerized by more, the characters or the sheer prowess of these actors. I didn't grown up in the Southern culture, I married into it, and wish I had learned to understand it better and so much earlier. I was literally transported to the small town in Alabama where my ex-husband grew up as I watched these characters do their dance. It was riveting. Ray McKinnon has created a masterpiece and his wife in the role of Chrystal was like watching someone go through life walking on broken glass, you can't help but wonder what on earth keeps them moving but that smallest glimmer of hope.
17 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A film that will blow you away
sarah-20111 April 2005
Chrystal is a movie that just won't leave you alone after you've seen it. It takes its time and burrows under your skin. Scenes take on a feeling of real time not 'reel time'. Directed by supremely talented Ray McKinnon, produced by McKinnon and Lisa Blount who completely possesses the title role, this film is a haunting look at what happens to people who will not and in fact, cannot put their overwhelming and powerful feelings into words. Someone once said, "There are rooms of experience that you and I will never enter." Well, that may be true in most cases, but McKinnon and his cast take you into one of these rooms and leave you there long enough so that you won't soon forget it. Balanced skillfully between moments that will make you twist and turn in your seat and moments of unexpected levity, this dark, Gothic Southern tale of loss leads to a strange kind of redemption. It will raise questions long after you leave the cinema. And how many movies these days do that? Don't miss it. It's a jewel.
17 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A film of pure conviction
mvalverde-126 July 2005
While not everyone appreciates the magic of making a feature film that maintains pure conviction, it is rare to see it done so effortlessly. McKinnon allows his exceptional cast to be just that. Thornton's tortured hero seems completely tangible. Blaunt's portrayal of an emotionally traumatized mother is multi-layered and sublime. Powerful supporting turns from McKinnon himself and a bearded Walt Goggins add just the right levity to carry you through this emotional trek. Some might say the film is slow, but it moves rapidly beneath the surface to grip you and reveal a slice of southern life that is all at once haunting and humanizing. McKinnon's understated direction, coupled with Kimmel's gorgeously simple cinematography create almost a still life effect that fits the piece eloquently. The authentic Ozark Mountain music sets the ideal tone. I saw this film over 6 weeks ago and I can still remember what it felt like to experience it. If you dig raw storytelling, then avail yourself to this finely crafted tale.
14 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
An example of what movies can be at their best
gandestx16 April 2005
The story is of doomed lovers, but the story is just part of what this movie is about.

The characters are gounded in a vanishing hill culture of the rural south, and much of what they say, do, and are derives from that culture. Condemned to act their roles, they move toward an inevitable climax while the viewer hopes for another resolution.

The performances are stellar. There are sections of dialogue that will haunt you and make you think. This movie is a deeply reverential evocation of a vanishing way of life. Sometimes it is caricature (Snake), but it is always true at an emotional level. I have to think the author was inspired by Donald Harington's novels of Staymore.

One of the finest movies in a long, long, time.
18 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Fantastic! Billy Bob does it again
punkin_flats17 September 2005
Fantastic! Chrystal put me in the mindset of Deliverance, one of my all-time favorite moves. It was spooky, darkly sexy, and moody. The casting was fantastic. It was so good to actually see Southern actors and actresses playing Southern roles which required the use of their distinctive accent. The frightening scenes made my blood run cold. I loved the low rolling mountain area that they filmed in and around. It was beautiful and it contrasted well with the very poor life some of the characters had. The weird stuff going on the movie kept your interest. Billy Bob had his usual understated acting style. He kept me riveted to the movie when he was on, just to see how he would react in the different scenes.
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
well done
emblby4 June 2006
excellent acting frees the viewer to ponder this story's version of life ...

it's rich

nothing trite or obvious... even the editing is refreshing, leaving out the things you already know and don't need to be shown, takes you to the next moment instead

my favorite line:

(set-up: two guys from the city are staying in a trailer overnight where a man is welding long into the night... one gets back onto his sleeping pad, says "be glad when we get back to America" his friend replies...)

"Barry, you can't preach the virtue of diversity and then put restrictions on what that is."
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Hear the flowers grow . . .
Holdjerhorses24 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Fascinating, to see so starkly one man's talents (Ray McKinnon) and faults on display, like the chipped old rhinestone engagement solitaire my dead granny handed me just before she gave up the ghost beneath that faded quilt she made for her sister Lula Mae when they shipped her off to that place for people teched in the haid, while autumn leaves of red and gold fell to earth outside the shack where she fixed possum and dressin' fer Thanksgivin' back in the holler and winter crawled in like a blind old moonshiner breathin' his last wasted breath.

McKinnon, here, cain't write too good. He can act (his "Snake" is the best and most electrifying thing in the film). He can direct; but so can loads of TV soap opera folks. His cinematographer (Myron Kerstein) is good. His actors do the best they can with this material (except Grace Zabriskie, who's supposed to be comedy relief except when she's supposed to be waxing wise and in any case seems to be channeling Rue McClanahan's Blanche from "Golden Girls," without benefit of that show's polished dialogue).

The script's the problem. One wants to empathize with these people. ANY of them. One waits, and waits, as things get worse and worse and the lines more smarmy and sentimental and unbelievable. But there's no one to care about or root for as the dialogue ricochets between pseudo-hard-boiled hillbilly and pseudo-Tennessee-Williams poetic.

So out of synch with reality are the words and situations that one laughs uncontrollaby and / or shakes one's head at all the wrong moments that keep piling up like Momma's mulch in the compost heap by the outhouse . . . .

Until Chrystal's supposedly moving reveal about her granny telling her, when a girl, that if she listens she can hear the flowers grow and now that she's a far-gone nutty self-pitying self-destructive backwoods drama queen she CAN hear 'em growin'.

Then Billy Bob Thornton shows back up in grizzled Howard-Hughes-near-the-end makeup and a filthy foot-long beard, with a kidnapped infant to replace the child he and Chrystal lost in the clumsily-shot no-budget opening accident sequence, before getting predictably killed by the cops in the squad-car headlights outside and Chrystal (as in Snake's meth? It's that kind of symbolism) marries the widower Good Cop, presumably finds redemption and some common sense, and the cop's little daughter by his dead wife climbs the artistic / symbolic welded sculpture Billy Bob topped off with a tricycle and sits there pedaling toward nowhere fifteen feet off the ground (like this film) and smiles wistfully, trying to jerk some genuine emotion from an audience searching vainly for any shred of meaning or reason-for-being in this pretentious vanity production, and credits roll while we (I could swear, y'all) hear flowers growing under the soundtrack and our tired behinds ache for sweet freedom.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Tragic story worth seeing
courtneymcampbell3 May 2004
Chrystal is a tragic story told with the well-crafted vision of Ray McKinnon. Visually, it is a beautiful glimpse of middle America in all its raw serenity. Its violence at times, although uncomfortable, seems necessary to provide the realism of the situation and the lives of these people.

It is a simple story of heartfelt emotion between a couple that has suffered and been broken by the loss of their child. Billy Bob Thorton and Lisa Blount battle through their individual pains, emotions and confusions with great fortitude and delivery. The story unfolds slowly, but is worth taking the journey. The supporting cast is stellar. Colin Firth as Hog is a treat.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
What a muddled load of crap!
davemed12 August 2006
This is one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. We know how "opinions" are....and I cannot see how anyone could find any- thing worthwhile in this film. I like B.B. Thornton and love Lisa Blount (see her work in the "Profit" series if you want to see her light up the screen), but they are wasted here. As for "Snake", in the real backwood culture...well, "Snake" would disappear and the world would be a much better place. I'm sure too many people will read the same reviews that I did and waste a couple of hours of their lives watching this quasi-mystical piece of trash, but I can hope that anyone that reads far enough will pause and then pass on this horrible, pointless movie.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
This is an interesting southern Gothic film with great character development and fine performances by all.
brsisson12 April 2005
I liked this film for many reasons and on many differing levels.

Actually I am always impressed when an actor in a film is also the director. In this case, Ray McKinnon performs both jobs admirably. When he is on screen, he drives the film and when he is not, one is looking forward to his electric and wildly out of control return! Ray's real life buddy Walter Coggins shines as well. He is as spineless and oily as they come and he becomes the character quite well.

Finally, the young Colin Fickes also stands out with a great comedic performance. (I hope to see more of him soon!) And Billy Bob? He is his normal professional self - it is just that these others shine so bright that Billy Bob doesn't stand out as one might expect in this world of (for now) lesser names. No shame to him - this is a film not a solo performance! This is an off beat, southern Gothic tale that no one will be sad to have gone to see. It takes its place in the world of independent fare and holds it well. All involved should be proud and I look forward to the future work of this great team.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
"You poison everything you touch"
Mikeonalpha998 September 2005
The characters in Chrystal are just so damaged from life's misfortunes. Wondering through a haze of disappointment and lost love, Chystal (Lisa Blount) and her estranged husband Joe (Billy Bob Thornton) are trying to reconnect when Joe returns after serving a twenty-year prison sentence.

Before his conviction, Joe was involved in a car wreck while being pursued by the authorities for smuggling drugs. Though he survived, Chrystal (Lisa Blount) suffered permanent back injuries and the couple's young son was killed.

Chrystal now lives on her farm in the wilds of the Arkansas Ozarks, a kind of semi-recluse, occasionally visited by her garrulous mother, (Grace Zabriskie) and with only her pet dog to keep her company. When Joe finally turns up unannounced, very little is said between them. The ghosts of the past and the spirit of their child, whom Chrystal sees as a vision in the forest, continue to haunt them both.

As the submissive, and guarded Joe quietly takes up residence on the porch with the dog and begins doing odd jobs around the property, Chrystal, who moves slowly and stiffly due to pain from the old accident, watches him and slips him food outside. Slowly, however, the couple begins to speak.

Although Chrystal tells him that, "You poison everything you touch," she has always loved Joe. However, she's been paralyzed, not only physically, but also emotionally by the accident that occurred so long ago. For his part, Joe, putting his welding skills to use, creating an enormous free-form metal sculpture in the yard, just wants his wife to tell him what to do.

Drugs eventually rear their ugly head when a local marijuana grower Snake (a very slimy Ray McKinnon), starts to lord in over Joe. Snake makes it clear that any weed growing must be done with his permission and he even pressures Joe to grow marijuana for him on his property. After a big and oddly fought public fistfight, it's clear nothing good can result between these two.

While the clash between Snake and Joe, and Joe's attempts to reconnect with Chrystal, provide much of the dramatic arc of the film, there's also a rather extraneous subplot involving a visit to the area by a blind musicologist, Kalid (Harry Lennix), who's writing a book on mountain music and wants to track down local legend and mountain music avatar Pa Da (Harry Dean Stanton).

Chrystal's own singing so impresses Kalid that he photographs her with the promise that he will write about her in his book. There's a tentative emotional connection between Kalid and Chrystal, and their relationship could go further were it not for Chrystal's lingering issues with Joe.

There's no doubt that Chrystal is a well intentioned, earnest, and beautifully made film. However, the proceedings unfold at a virtual glacial pace, despite the periodic bursts of violence. Consequently, rather than dramatizing the story, the producers have almost succeeded in entombing it, much as Chrystal's farm is entombed in the mountains.

Director Ray McKinnon is obviously trying to imbue the story with mythical like elements - we have a part backwoods melodrama, part symbol-laden tragedy, and part druggie/crime drama. It's a worthy effort, but it doesn't really come off that well, particularly when McKinnon handles everything so ploddingly.

The result comes off more like a Southern Gothic funeral, a zombie trash-fest, rather than a serious treatment of the themes of loss, guilt, redemption, and moral repayment. The acting is generally good with Blount particularly memorable as Chrystal, her mix of vulnerability and emotional instability make her the most heart-felt of all the characters. But her resolute steadfastness makes the character a bit monotonous after about an hour.

Overall, Chrystal has periodic moments of compelling drama, but the pacing is often so labored that the film ends up coming across as extremely hard going. Designed to appeal mostly to Southern viewers, the film just lacks the radiance it so obviously aspires to, and will probably end up finding a nice home on late night cable. Mike Leonard September 05.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Superb acting, but...
acs_joel6 September 2005
Somehow, I guess I just don't "get" Chrystal. What is the purpose of its existence? The story was not nearly so compelling as, let's say, Slingblade, nor the characters especially endearing. Individual acting performances were outstanding and rose far above the story. Why did Chrystal need to be written? What was gained from it? Who learned from it? If I had come away with a lesson learned or a moral, Chrystal would have made more sense. Instead, I came away feeling, undone. Shouldn't a film make a statement or ask a question? Chrystal makes me ask" "Why?" Maybe I should write a screenplay. It can be just anything, as long as it has some kind of music, bluegrass maybe, and some good fight scenes, with more slapping and kicking than punching, as a change of pace. Oh, yes, someone will get shot, too.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Love runs deep. Redemption elusive.
michaelRokeefe1 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Stark reality; sometimes dour with a lethargic pace. CHRYSTAL shows love to an extreme. Award winning director Ray McKinnon teams with his wife Lisa Blount in presenting a story so brash, subtle and human. Joe(Billy Bob Thornton)a former marijuana grower returns home to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas after spending sixteen years in prison. He returns to his home to try and start life anew, seeking redemption for the auto accident that took the life of his very young son and left his wife(Blount)permanently damaged physically and mentally. Joe is confronted by a crank snorting drug kingpin named Snake(McKinnon), who wants to settle a sixteen year score with a bloody knock down fist fight. Ray wants Chrystal's forgiveness, but the relationship is interrupted when he is forced to live in the woods hiding from the DEA, after being set up for growing marijuana again.

This movie runs one hour and 46 minutes...but seems a lot longer. This may turn off some, but I really enjoyed this film. There is nudity, sexual situations, depicted drug use and very strong language that for me appears evocative of the real world. Other notables appearing: Grace Zabriske, Johnny Galecki, James Intveld and Harry Dean Stanton. The vivid images are punctuated with an amazing score featuring the likes of Jay Farrar, The Drive-By Truckers, Tim Eriken and Harry Dean Stanton. If you happen to live in America's southern states, CHRYSTAL may seem like a family reunion. I usually like anything Billy Bob is in and this movie just affirms his command of his talents.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
haunting, Arkansas Gothic, good music, some too familiar types but most scenes rise above clich├ęs
WordsNest16 April 2005
While some of the characters will confirm too many stereotypes about southern mountain residents, it's all too true that hard scrabble suffering abounds. In the character of Chrystal, the pain is both constant and transcendent. Lisa Blount somehow managed to convey a strange beauty and dignity, while wavering between pragmatic sanity and understandable lunacy due to a horrible car crash twenty years earlier. Since I didn't see Levity, I could appreciate Billy Bob Thornton's performance, and appreciate his range from Slingblade, to the Carville character in Primary Colors, to this film, in which the recently released prisoner tries hard to return to his world and make up for past sins.

A few more scenes of home grown music (since some musicologists from Chicago were trying to put a book together) would have been a nice distraction from the bleak living and the constant threats of violence.

The film is about ghosts, but without the supernatural hooey that some blockbuster films exploit.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Exceptional
cassierb8 October 2005
The quality of film that can only be delivered by Billy Bob Thorton. Along with Sling Blade, Levity and Monsterball I was immersed into the storyline, the actors and music of this fine, thoughtful and moving film.

I appreciate these films of substance, Thorton's pathway's to redemption rather than some of the later more commercial films and this one delivers to the max.

The soundtrack of rich folk music adds to an already exceptional presentation.

Can't wait for another film like this of his to come out!
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
please do not bother
trayceenic2 November 2005
I gave this movie a "2" out of respect for Billy Bob Thornton, but it was embarrassingly awful! I don't know if "slow" can be used to describe the film, perhaps "pointless" is a better fit! In the beginning it reminded me of "The Gift", which I feel was a very good movie, but by the climax, (if there was one), I began to feel terribly infuriated by my mother who suggested we watch the film and who later fell asleep 45 minutes into it. I read the other comments and if you loved, "O brother, where art thou", than you would surely be captivated by this film. But, if you like movies with some sort of plot, save your dime- this ain't it! You have been warned! The writer should really stick to acting and portraying cops, he's much better at it!
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A hypnotic depiction of desperation
futures-16 November 2007
Starring Billy Bob Thornton and Lisa Blount. Think of cross breeding the film "Deliverance" with Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" and Werner Herzog's "Heart of Glass". Set in the backwoods of an Appalachian dead end live a few people who are battered and scarred by Life's events and each other. There's history at the turn of every dirt road. There are regrets and bad, stupid blood. Nothing has gone right for them, and they don't see it changing, except during rare bouts of fantasy. That's right, this isn't a comedy. It's a steady, low key, almost hypnotic depiction of desperation. Acting by the entire cast is good. No one appears to be acting, let alone foreign to the experience. The folk music is haunting, the scenes flawlessly believable. I swear I've driven through that area. I tried to not stop anymore than necessary.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
True to the bone
davisk95720 May 2007
Stumbled on this gem while browsing through the Sundance Channel on DirectTV -- Thornton's name got me interested, and my wife and I made the comment as the opening credits rolled that we were unfamiliar with the rest of the cast. But when Snake showed up, we sat up straight, as the Rev from Deadwood was unmistakably in the house, despite the makeup. Perhaps I wasn't as aware of Ray McKinnon's identity as I am now, but this man is a serious talent. I wish that The Accountant were available on DVD (at least not in NetFlix rental), but until it is, Chrystal will do.

Others have commented on the beautiful vocal by his wife, Lisa Blount, and -- thinking she must be a noted bluegrass singer, I checked her out -- surprised to find that her interesting bio reveals nothing but an acting background.

But I titled this comment True to the Bone, and now I segue to the meat of my interest in the film. It -- the story -- is not about Joe, or Snake, so much as it is about Chrystal (as the title would indicate.) At its heart, it's unflinchingly about the mother's loss of an only son, and the pain that never goes away, and the illogical anodynes that are used to temporarily assuage that pain. She is not 'crazy,' as the locals think. She uses sex to ease her suffering, and young boys to subconsciously bring her closer to her lost boy. A dramatic literary extreme, true, but valid nonetheless. I remember that when our only son was killed in an accident 35 years ago, my then wife had pretty much the same lasting emotional hell to deal with until her own death 17 years later. It's a non-stop carousel ride of blame, anger, keening, but always the pain.

Doubtless, Ms. Blount's Arkansas background lent much to the tone of the movie, but as Mr. McKinnon is credited as Writer and Director, I must bow to his elegant insight into the deepest loss a woman can feel. That this one fine movie can achieve that while simultaneously portraying an equally pained man's search for redemption -- and throwing in a multitude of unforgettable supporting characters (Snake, Hog, Charlie, and Larry spring to mind, but also the seer and the mother) -- I wish that TCM would pick this one up, so that it could enjoy a wider audience.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
PLEASE see this film!
all5602 February 2007
Grady Harp's review down below says it perfectly.

This may not be the best picture of the last two decades, but I cannot think of a better one. There is not a wasted frame of film, or production dollar.

This is what movies, made by humans for humans, can achieve. Thornton, Blount, and MacKinnon all deserve Oscars for their roles, and the latter for his extraordinary writing, production and direction effort.

Any movie where the hero first appears carrying a six-pack of RC and engages a mongrel dog in a staring contest is already more interesting to me than anything Hollywood has done since computer graphics, Dolby 5.1 and the Foley were invented.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Surprisingly good movie
michael-j-hartz22 August 2006
The wonderful thing about this movie is that it is inhabited by real people. I think I have known someone like nearly everyone in this picture. Most of the characters are also fascinating. I have to admit that the music experts from the U of Chicago had me stumped for awhile, but their presence eventually made sense. Of course, Chrystal is the heart of the film and she is irresistible. BBT is quiet, brooding, loaded down with guilt ... as he should be. The bluegrass music is laid on a bit heavily at times. It's not as if we need any other indications that we are in the deep country! The reminders are everywhere and it nearly becomes stifling at times ... but not quite. Thankfully, the ending is joyous, surprising, and uplifting. It also solved a running mystery. Time well spent.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Interesting movie with complex themes
scarlettjane17 July 2006
Chrystal proved to be well worth watching. As usual, Billy Bob picks a movie with odd quirks and deeper meanings. His character Joe seeks forgiveness and a possible reconciliation with his wife Chrystal (Lisa Blount) after causing a wreck that kills their small son. Chrystal is also left with severe physical scars as well as mental wounds that will not heal. His return to Chrystal after a 20 year prison sentence is the central storyline. Billy Bob delivers a sad and touching performance as Joe. Lisa Blount does an excellent job as Chrystal. You feel her pain and hurt as you watch her struggle to deal with a life that has turned upside down. My favorite of all in this film was Walton Goggins' character,Larry. Goggins is an excellent actor, and "Larry," provides just enough comic relief (whether intended or not) to keep this movie from being too depressing to watch. Being a Southerner myself, I enjoyed the dialogue and Arkansas scenery. "Chrystal," while seeming deceptively simple, is an excellent film dealing with the struggle to find understanding with the often tough blows we receive in a harsh world.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed