"Crown Jewels" ("Kronjuvelerna" in the original Swedish) is neither fit for a regal head, nor especially gemlike. It’s a funny little fairy tale from writer-director Ella Lemhagen, who cooked up the script from a story by Carina Dahl.
The movie takes us to a Swedish never-never land in which the old and the new freely mix (vintage cars, clothes, and telephones share the screen with modern elements). There’s a peasant girl named Fragancia Fernandez (Alicia Vikander), the daughter of an immigrant worker and would-be alchemist named Fernandez Fernandez (Michalis Koutsogiannakis). There’s a prince, Richard (Bill Skarsgård), whose father (Loa Falkman) owns the shoe factory that employs the entire town. Like any beauty and regal beast, Fragancia and Richard share a deep, uncomfortable link; they were born on the same day, and their fathers, each eager for a son and jostling over the babies, managed to drop Richard on his head.
The necessary metal plate in his head and resulting scar across his forehead is nothing compared to the psychic damage Richard suffers under his father’s cruel and overbearing hand. Making matters worse is his unrequited love for Fragancia, who favors hockey phenomenon Pettersson-Jonsson (Björn Gustafsson)... even though Pettersson-Jonsson is gay and in love with an American skater called Goldie (David Lenneman).
The film plays out mostly in flashback, as Fragancia, suspected of shooting Richard, explains her complicated story to a police commissioner ((Tomas von Bromssen). Make that, she explains her wildly over-complicated story, which features magical elements such as plucking stars from the night sky and the birth of a younger brother, the all-too-overtly named Jésus (Jesper Lindberger), who suffers from a "syndrome." It seems that Jésus is one of those rare children with a golden heart, the sort you can recognize... as Fragancia’s ailing mother, Marianne (Alexandra Rapaport), explains in a bedtime story... because, if dropped in water, they sink straight to the bottom, where they wander the seas and happily cavort with fish and seals.
Cue the creepy voice-over of Fragancia’s missing brother, who has evidently been spending his time cavorting with fish and seals at the bottom of the sea, just as in Marianne’s fairy tale.
The movie is a blathering hot mess, from its repeated motifs referring to gold and its metaphorical meanings to its oddball and ill-fitting evocation of Christian mysteries to its puzzling and irksome swerve into "ex-gay" territory. What starts off as an intriguing murder mystery degenerates, by excruciatingly tedious degrees, into a catalogue of teenage girls’ fantasies interspersed with blackly funny and grotesque moments the likes of which we haven’t seen since David Lynch’s heyday. (In a better and more tonally consistent movie, such twists would have worked a treat; here, they are simply more noise in a noisome misfire.) By the time the inane happy ending arrives, the film has long since crashed right off the rails.
Those wanting a superior fable about water-borne tots might do well to stick with the Argentinian film "The Fish Child," from 2009, the work of novelist-screenwriter-director Lucía Puenzo. That film is strange and otherworldly and lyrical; "Crown Jewels," by contrast, is merely all wet.