Screenplay : Shonda Rimes
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2002
Stars : Britney Spears (Lucy), Zoe Saldana (Kit), Anson Mount (Ben), Taryn Manning (Mimi), Justin Long (Henry), Dan Aykroyd (Lucy's Dad), Kim Cattrall (Lucy's Mom)
Crossroads, Britney Spears' feature-film debut in which she plays a recent high-school graduate searching for her true self, is simply too bizarre in too many ways to be pawned off as a bad movie or a forgettable vanity project, as many have done. It's not a particularly good movie, but it is interesting in many ways.
In terms of arguments about genre and how to classify particular movies, Crossroads will prove to be a confounding piece of work. Simply put, what is it? It begins as a nostalgic teen dramedy, but quickly develops into an uneasy hybrid of the road movie and the modern rock musical, with flashes of overwrought melodrama from the '50s. This is not exactly a kid's escapist movie, although it is advertised as such, and the narrative itself is constantly rupturing and collapsing because it simply cannot contain the pop phenomenon of Britney Spears and tell the story it wants to tell at the same time. Thus pulled in two directions, it literally rips itself apart, which provides a whole level of entertainment in and of itself.
Scripted by Shonda Rimes (HBO's Introducing Dororthy Dandridge) and directed by Tamra Davis (Guncrazy, Billy Madison), Crossroads opens in a small Georgia town in full nostalgia mode as we see three best friends at age 10 bury a box of trinkets and solemnly swear that they will dig it up on midnight of the night they graduate from high school. Fast-forward eight years, and we find that their promise to be best friends forever has not lasted. Lucy (Spears), the class valedictorian, has taken the straight and narrow (not to mention virginal) path, mostly at the behest of her well-meaning, but overprotective lunk of a dad (Dan Aykroyd). Kit (Zoe Saldana) has become the snobbish prom-queen bitch, while poor Mimi (Taryn Manning) has made good on the stereotype of trailer park trash by being pregnant and unmarried.
Because they realize they haven't yet made good on their childhood dreams, each of the three girls has some reason to head West (maybe a gender-reversal on the Manifest Destiny proclamation "Go West, young man!"?), so they embark on a road trip together to California. Kit wants to see her boyfriend who is going to school at UCLA (her dream is to be married), Mimi wants to enter a singing competition (her dream is to see the world), and Lucy wants to see her mother, who deserted her and her father when she was only three. Driving the car is an unshaved, hot-stud musician named Ben (Anson Mount, who has a slight early-John Travolta quality to him), whose danger and intrigue quota is multiplied many times over by the rumor that he spent time in jail for having killed someone.
The road movie conceit allows for the three girls to grow close again while also giving us plenty of interesting scenery, from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, to golden sunsets in Arizona, to the wild streets of Los Angeles. It also attempts to account for all the excessive moments that are designed wholly to allow Britney Spears to do what she does best: sing and dance.
The movie states this up front in the opening moments, which find Spears in her underwear enthusiastically singing and grinding along to Madonna's "Open Your Heart" in her pink-and-white girlish bedroom. It's almost as if the movie is saying, "Yes, we know what you came for, so here it is. Let's get it out of the way so we can move on with the story."
But, it hardly stops there. When Spears isn't singing along in the car to radio tunes, ranging from 'N Sync to Shania Twain, she's skimpily dressed and ripping into a cover of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n'Roll" at a wild karaoke bar. There is a line of dialogue early on that suggests that Lucy wants to pursue music, rather than medicine, as her father declares, but it's hardly enough to even begin to justify the ways in which the movie grinds to a dead halt so that it may momentarily morph into a music video. In a full-blown musical, this is expected and understandable. Because Crossroads constantly purports to be a realistic drama, such moments are not only narratively and visually excessive, but are borderline ludicrous.
Crossroads is billed as an ensemble movie--the story of three girls and their search for their own dreams, but the extent to which the narrative is fully invested in Lucy's character also borders on the silly. Take, for instance, the big climax, in which Lucy floors an entire auditorium of people with her singing prowess, thus suggesting that she will be awarded a recording contract. Hence, she has just realized Mimi's dream. And, in addition, she is the only one to find true love, while the other two girls find only heartbreak and disillusionment. Kit's dream was to get married, and it seems that Lucy has realized that dream, as well. Hence, it is not surprising that Kit and Mimi fall to the background as backup singers to the wallflower-turned-pop-princess, even if it is at the expense of their dignity.
Yet, there is a distinctly undeniable pleasure to the whole affair. There was never any doubt that Britney Spears had screen presence--she wouldn't be the scandalous sex symbol of the new millennium if she couldn't captivate audiences in multiple ways. Here, she plays up everything that is contradictory in her star persona, thus constantly equating her on-screen presence with Britney, not Lucy. The character is a clean-cut, straight-A virgin, and we are meant to believe that she is so conservative and wall-flowerish that she cannot quite bring herself to lose her virginity in a pact with her nerdy chemistry lab partner (although the scene between them is quite well done). Yet, at the same time, give her extra eye make-up, crimp her hair, and put her in some tight(er) clothes, and she can bump and grind with the best of them.
It's as if the whole movie is about how Britney/Lucy's sexuality is simply primed to explode, which is awkwardly underscored by the diegetic use of Spears' hit single "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," which plays blatantly with her dichotomous existence as both taboo object of desire and full-fledged sex siren. It is something of a testament to Spears' talent that she plays up both quite well, batting her doe eyes in a gigglish sort of way at one moment, and swinging her hips with sheer potency at others, regardless of how the two sides ultimately fail to coexist believably in the character of Lucy. Of course, in the end, her sexuality is tamed, not because she remains a virgin, but because she saves herself for someone "special," and the way in which Tamra Davis' camera discreetly denies any visual evidence of Britney/Lucy having sex indicates that all her other sexualized behavior was just "play"--the real thing is too important to be sullied by putting it on-screen.
Crossroads may pretend to be about friendship and loyalty and romance, but ultimately what it is about is the continuing evolution of Britney Spears, and all the melodrama the movie can muster (which is quite over-the-top by the end) can't begin to overshadow the complexities of her star presence.
|Crossroads : Special Collector's Edition DVD|
|Distributor||Paramount Home Video|
|Release Date||July 23, 2002|
| 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)|
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the visual look of Crossroads is, despite the movie's colorful packaging, actually a bit blah. The transfer seems well-done, as it is free of artifacting and has a nice, film-like appearance with good detail. Yet, the image is just slightly soft and a bit hazy at times, and colors don't jump out the way you would expect.
| English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Surround|
French Dolby 2.0 Surround
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is good throughout. Of course, it truly shines during the movie's musical moments when all the speakers are utilized to great effect, particularly in the "I Love Rock'n'Roll" karaoke sequence. Surround effects are generally well done, and the dialogue all sounds clear and natural.
| Audio commentary by director Tamra Davis, screenwriter Shonda Rhimes, and producer Ann Carli |
The three women in charge of making Crossroads sit down for this freewheeling screen-specific audio commentary that is fun, but not terribly revealing. They have interesting anecdotes about the production and nothing but wonderful things to say about everyone. They have a good rapport with each other, often cracking jokes and making asides, and they seem very matter-of-fact about having worked with Britney Spears, whose idea the movie was in the first place. Of course, there a few moments when they stretch credulity, such as when they all fall over themselves declaring that a Pepsi machine in the background just "happened" to be there and it is not a Britney-induced product placement. Yeah, right.
"The Making of Crossroads: 40 Days With Britney" featurette
"Taryn's T-Shirts" featurette
"First in Line: Inside the Crossroads Premiere" featurette
Deleted scenes/outtakes with on-camera introductions by Tamra Davis
"Break Through Britney" on-screen commentary
2 music videos
"Sing-Along With Britney": 2 karaoke music videos
"Edit Your Own Music Video"
Trailers and TV spots
Britney's DVD welcome
Copyright © 2002 James Kendrick