In William H. Macy’s Krystal, a former stripper and recovering alcoholic tries to keep her life on the straight and narrow. But as Krystal (Rosario Dawson) diligently attends her A.A. meetings, she’s forced to contend with an abusive ex-boyfriend, Willie (T.I.), who’s tracked her down from another city; a troubled paraplegic teenage son, Bobby (Jacob Latimore); and an 18-year-old boy, Taylor (Nick Robinson), who essentially stalks her until she agrees to go out with him. Curiously, the film plays out not through her flustered perspective as she juggles the varying demands of three disturbed or neurotic men, but rather that of the precocious young Taylor. In the process, Taylor’s persistent stalking, lying, and microaggressions toward Krystal are minimized—presented as twee affectations and idiosyncrasies which stem from his general naïveté and over-the-top responses to being love-struck for the first time.
The gravity of Krystal’s situation is also undermined at every turn by the filmmakers’ excessively broad, comedic strokes. Rather than exploring the film’s darker undertones, Macy and screenwriter Will Aldis lean too far in the opposite direction, indulging in an onslaught of seemingly random, quirky touches, from Bobby’s tricked-out wheelchair (in both a fight and chase sequence), to a bemused ER doctor (William Fichtner) who’s forced to repeatedly deal with various characters after they’re injured, to Taylor’s recurring visions of a cartoonish, devil-like incarnation of the man who ran his dog over when he was a child. But even worse than the grating and bizarre tonal clashes caused by the massive rift between Krystal’s increasingly dire situation and the film’s incessantly puerile sense of humor is the way Taylor’s gaslighting of Krystal is ultimately both rewarded and celebrated.
Despite Krystal’s numerous attempts to get Taylor to back off, he continues to insert himself into her life until he’s able to befriend her son and stand up to her violent ex. But the film essentially ignores the creepy manner in which he becomes involved with Krystal, choosing to instead focus on the fact that, in the end, she accepts that the fawning kid really is exactly what she needs. Concerns over the fact that he’s 20 years her junior and clearly incapable of helping her raise her disabled son are swept under the rug as Krystal gradually devolves further and further into a solipsistic teenage fantasy: of Taylor, a self-professed “old soul,” serving as the panacea for all that ails Krystal. Any potential for emotional payoff is quashed by the film’s baffling decision to concern itself with its struggling female lead only inasmuch as her problems directly affect Robinson’s privileged white boy.