There’s a warped little comedy somewhere inside Krystal, but it’s tangled in a seemingly endless strand of distorted twists. It’s as if director William H. Macy tried to incorporate all the madness from his show Shameless and infuse it with an emotional core of a heartwarming romance—laughs and tears do not come of it, only wide mouths and leering eyes that gawk at how such a film manages to fall flat on its face as a dramedy.
We’re supposed to feel a quirky love for the young adult Taylor (Nick Robinson), who has a heart condition that turns tense situations turn into life-threatening incidents, but it’s not so funny when revealed that he apparently willed this disability after watching his dog being gruesomely hit by a car. This messed-up event makes it hard for him to talk to the lovely Krystal (Rosario Dawson), a random woman he fancies at the beach—before he gets very far in conversation, he’s off to the emergency room. Taylor doesn’t even know this woman’s name, but he figures the fact she came with him to the hospital is reason enough to pursue a relationship. Him being an art gallery clerk and she is a recovering addict at the local support group could make for a sweet romance. If it were only that simple.
The film never takes off as a romantic comedy because the script continuously misfires with dysfunctional components. To woo Krystal, Taylor comes up with the lame idea to copy the style of a leather-wearing biker, believing that he’s channeling some James Dean figure that will impress the girl he desires. The only thing more embarrassing than watching him try to pull off this character is when it somehow works with Krystal. This persona also manages to win over Krystal’s son (Jacob Latimore), who is initially peeved at the idea of a man not much older than he is dating his mother. He warms up to Taylor too well, but they at least have some decent chemistry.
But then the movie goes nuts with trying to weave more zaniness. Taylor’s father, Wyatt (William H. Macy), is a religious devout who tries to work his suppression magic on his kids, only for his own demons to come back and bite him in the butt. Krystal’s former pimp, Willie (TI), drops into town to get some bloody revenge—if he can stop taking drugs and seeing fantastical visions of the devil sexually licking his ear. Of course, since William Fichtner is playing Taylor’s doctor, he must be a comically mean and inept person, yet I’m surprised Kathy Bates as gallery owner Vera leads to little more than “look how old I am” zingers she slings at her young employee. And Taylor’s brother, Campbell (Grant Gustin), is such a bore of an outsider to this story he’s barely worth mentioning, despite how present he is in the film.
Krystal is all over the map, as neither its comedy nor its drama ever becomes engaging past the spectacle of the film’s ineffective oddball nature. Scenes such as a fight that breaks out at a family dinner or a home invasion that turns slapstick (including a severed toe) do not mix well with the sappiness of Taylor hopelessly seeking love and Krystal struggling to stay off booze. All of these events are approached with a look-how-strange-this-all-is vibe that never ventures past the impression of a face-planting oddity that never fully delivers on the hallucinations of a pimp or the repression of a man of the cloth.
Ultimately, this is a comedy where the humor is the most prominent problem. Refusing to meld with the heartfelt drama, every gag feels like unnecessary baggage on a romance that never blossoms. It’s a real shame, considering Nick Robinson and Rosario Dawson have a strangely compelling appeal—it’s just buried under heaps of lame jokes about drug-induced visions, fears of porn illustrations coming to live, and a dog with its guts strewn across the road. One can only hope that such a script was dropped in the mess of a copy-machine accident, mistakenly merging an offbeat indie romance with a routine raunchy comedy.