Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst) is a self-destructive, strung out senior who saw her mother commit suicide when she was 12, desperately wants her wealthy congressman father (Bruce Davison) to love and pay attention to her, clashes with a stepmother who can’t stand her, takes pills to ease her pain and runs wild drinking with her best friend Mattie (Lucinda Jenney.) Carlos Nunez (Jay Hernandez) lives in East LA with a single mom who works hard so that Carlos can attend a prestigious school in Pacific Palisades, make straight A’s and attain his dream of being a pilot. When the two meet they are instantly attracted to each other. Carlos sees the good things in Nicole and helps her get past her depression and Nicole sees the character and kindness in Carlos that no one has ever shown her before. As the two become closer, they don’t see the collision course they are on when their different worlds collide.
THE GOOD: This is a unique teen romance in that it deals with serious themes about self-destructive behavior, racial and cultural differences, academic dreams and “first love” sexual experiences. Dunst gives an Oscar worthy performance as the anguished, indifferent senior who desperately wants her father’s attention but is charmed by a boy who completely goes against the typical boyfriend criteria for her social background. Hernandez perfectly captures the dilemma of a young man choosing between a future and career he has worked all his life to achieve and the woman he decides to give his heart to, hoping he can save her from herself. … The troubled father/daughter relationship is realistic and I enjoyed the touching scene that shows the father making an effort to connect with his daughter. Rather than choosing the typical Hollywood scenario and making the dad look like an insensitive moron, this script gives us a father who’s a hero and a satisfying ending that most teenagers will believe and applaud. The heavy complex differences and issues are what make this story stand apart from most teen dramas but it’s likewise what makes this movie worth seeing and work. It shows the negative consequences of a self-destructive person, the cultural conflicts teenagers undoubtedly face as they choose to date someone out of their social circle and how important and integral parents are to their teenagers future. A talented supporting cast, realistic characters, dramatic comparisons of the two teenagers different lifestyles and a great soundtrack deliver a crazy but beautiful story. … THE NOT SO GOOD: Aside from the adult themes of suicide, drinking, chemical depression, cultural and racial differences and parental approval, there’s a small amount of language and strong, mature sexual situations that make this story too adult for the PG-13 crowd and more for older teen and adult audiences. No graphic sex or nudity is shown but the two teenagers do decide to have sex and the scenes are realistic and sensual. Parental advisory: I liked this movie because it deals with important issues about life, parents, first love, cultural issues and achieving goals and dreams no matter what the odds. It’s an interesting movie for mature teens with an important statement about the consequences of their actions but it’s definitely not for the under 17 crowd.