Zac Beaulieu(Grondin) always knows there’s something different about him. Born dead on Christmas Day, 1960, his survival is suitably miraculous, and his loving mother Laurianne (Proulx) is convinced that Zac has a gift. But all Zac really wants is to be close to his father, kindly but old-fashioned Gervais (Cote). Gervais is a typical working man, toughly affectionate to his five sons, but keen for them to espouse his values, and Zac idolises him.
Zac enjoys his moment in the sun as his father’s favourite – relishing the drives home from school where they enjoy secret trips to the chip shop. But he also likes to help his mother and push his baby brother, Ivan, in his pram. Somehow, even at six, he knows his father will not approve. As Zac grows up, he struggles to suppress his own desires in order to be the man his father wants him to be. The irony is that, as an adolescent in the seventies, Zac fits in perfectly – Ziggy Stardust, the Rolling Stones – all androgyny, cheekbones, and long hair. But suburban Quebec isn’t quite ready for Zac and the family struggle to deal with the rumours that surround him.
C.R.A.Z.Y. (the initials of the five boys, Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary, Yvan – and also the title of the Patsy Cline song that underscores the film) could be seen as a kind of companion piece to Brokeback Mountain. Just like Ennis and Jack, Zac tries to deny his sexuality to fit into the stereotypically masculine mould that his father represents (and his older brothers are facets of – the brain, the sport, the biker; he even moves in with a girlfriend (Thompson) for a white, but finally has the courage to break free and win acceptance on his own terms. Zac is luckier than Ennis and Jack though – he lives in a city, and has a kind and loving mother, and crucially was born ten years later, into a rapidly changing and more tolerant world – in short, he has options.
Zac is marked out as different from the moment of his birth, when he almost dies, and then when his father drops him. He bears a birthmark, a shock of blond hair; he’s a sensitive, nervy, dreamy, asthmatic bedwetter with some sort of psychic connection to his mother. It’s not surprising that he just wants to be the same as everyone else – and who more than his super cool dad with his aviator shades and Jean-Paul Belmondo looks. Its also therefore even less surprising that he ends up a confused mess.
Marc-Andre Grodin is brilliant as Zac, alternating a cool adolescent cockiness with baffled hurt as he struggles to connect with the father who abandoned him. It helps that he looks like a cross between Rufus Wainwright and a young Keanu Reeves, and suits the seventies androgyny and eighties punk fashions down to the ground. Whoever designed the sets did a fabulous job and must have had loads of fun recreating a seventies suburban ambience – every detail feels right. As do the regular family gatherings at Christmas where Zac always gets the biggest present – and usually the biggest disappointment (wanting a pram, getting a train set) – the endless squabbling feels completely authentic, culminating in a fist fight at Christian’s wedding.
The film runs slightly too long, and Zac’s Palestinian sojourn seems a little far-fetched, though Grodin looks great with a tan. But it’s a warm and delightful film, punctuated with sharp wit (one barbed exchange between Gervais and Laurianne had the audience in stitches), and full of possibility. It also introduces the concept of ironed toast, a new culinary delight.
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