Dan Klores’s amazing documentary Crazy Love opens with talking heads—old talking heads who reminisce about a tumultuous love affair of half a century ago. No ageism intended, but that by itself feels odd: the juxtaposition of these people and their somewhat tacky coiffures with vivid photos of their glamorous younger selves, accompanied by squealing bebop that evokes the sexy repression and release of late fifties. We meet old and young Burt Pugach, a wealthy ambulance-chaser who falls hard for Linda Riss, a dark-eyed beauty he spies on a park bench. Burt makes up for in determination what he lacks in looks. He takes Linda up in his plane, gives her a taste of life among the swells in a nightclub he co-owns (the rapturous song “Linda” is a leitmotif)—and, when this resolute virgin discovers he’s married, promises to leave his wife for her.
Given Klores’s sly deadpan and all these bewigged middle-class people who look and sound like your grandparents in Florida (Linda wears outlandish sunglasses), it takes some time to realize we’re in a maelstrom—going down down down into a saga of obsession, sadism, masochism, and codependency that was and remains one of the great, sick tabloid stories of all time. For those who’ve never heard of Burt and Linda, I’ll let Klores spring his jack-in-the-boxes—and let your jaw drop as low as mine did.
The movie distills every functionally dysfunctional relationship you’ve ever had into one horrific case study. And yet it has a happy ending, of a sort—the sociopath domesticated, the sadist and masochist exchanging roles. Klores has said that he wants Crazy Love to be a date movie, something to ruminate aloud on with your sweetie over drinks. If your date finds the relationship a turn-on, however, you should think about changing your phone number.
It’s not a surprise that Kevin Costner is so terrific as a pillar of the community (Portland, Oregon) who also happens to be a prolific serial killer, in Mr. Brooks. That glassy demeanor, that overdeliberate diction, that near-visible cone of solipsism: He seemed demented in his breakthrough role, in The Untouchables. He doesn’t caricature this psycho—given his peculiar persona, he doesn’t need to. Costner plays it straight and William Hurt—as, I’m not kidding, the devil that hisses in his ear that it’s time to kill again—provides a welcome shot of camp. If the movie were just these two, bopping around arguing and offing people, it would have been better than the unholy mess it turns into. Demi Moore (she’s back!) plays the agent on Mr. Brooks’s trail—and she’s being stalked by her own serial killer! I liked Moore better in the days when she had some baby fat and played cuddly neurotics. Now her cheeks are sunken and her acting is joyless. Everyone except Moore is a serial killer or a serial killer wannabe, including Brooks’s beautiful daughter. (The film says it’s a genetic trait.) Dane Cook plays a guy who catches Mr. Brooks in the act and decides he wants to kill people, too. He’s pretty convincing. If our movies are any guide, we’re a nation of latent serial killers.