Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movie Review: Like Crazy

Like Crazy ***
Directed by: Drake Doremus.   
Written by: Drake Doremus & Ben York Jones.
Starring:  Anton Yelchin (Jacob), Felicity Jones (Anna), Jennifer Lawrence (Sam), Charlie Bewley (Simon), Alex Kingston (Jackie), Oliver Muirhead (Bernard), Finola Hughes (Liz).

It’s easy to see why so many people fell in love with Like Crazy at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (where it won the top prize). It is a romance between two 20-somethings that isn’t as formulaic and routine as most Hollywood romances, yet never quite crosses the line into being insufferably hip like many indie romances (think Paper Heart). The performances by Anton Yelchin and especially Felicity Jones are wonderful – natural and heartfelt – and they have a wonderful chemistry together. For the first time in a while, you actually want these two to end up together, because they seem so perfect together. But, of course, sometimes things get in the way. I’ve heard a few people mention Blue Valentine in relation to Like Crazy, but while that film tore your guts out (in a good way), this one doesn’t get there. Call it Blue Valentine-lite if you want.

Anna and Jacob meet while they are both in school. She picks him up by leaving a long note under his windshield, which ends with the postscript “I am not a nut job”. He finds this charming, and calls her, and soon they are pretty much inseparable. But like many University romances, once graduation comes, it becomes harder to stay together. It’s even harder in this case, because Anna in British, in LA on a student visa which expires when she graduates. They plan on staying together – she’s going to go home from the summer, and then return, this time with a work visa, to try and start her career in journalism. He’s going to start his own furniture design company. But she cannot bring herself to leave him for two and half months, so she stays past her visa. When she tries to return, as a tourist, before she gets her work visa, they won’t let her in. So she can’t get into the States, and he has just started his company, and doesn’t want to abandon it before he has even got it off the ground. Weeks turn into months, turn into years, and the two stay connected through e-mail and phone calls, and the occasional visit from Jacob to the UK, as Anna begins the long process of being able to get back into the States. The both find success in their jobs, find alternate mates that start as people just to fill the void, and then perhaps turn into something more. And yet, they can never quite let go of each other. When they are together, they are happier than they are with anyone else.

I liked the earlier scenes in Like Crazy more than the later ones. The first blush of young love has rarely been handled with so much care, and with so much honesty. The way the two can’t bear to be out of each other’s sight, the sweet nothings they whisper to each other beneath the sheets, that dreamy, faraway look they have in their eyes is captured as well as it can be possible. As the movie progresses, there are still many honest moments – sometimes painfully so, as the two leave messages for each other, as their fingers type out text messages, and then hover over the send button debating whether to send it or not. Strangely, as the movie goes along, it’s the scenes where these two are apart, living their lives, and trying to stay connected that work better than the ones where they are together, which are perhaps a little too on the nose at times.

Co-written and directed by Drake Doremus, Like Crazy sometimes goes a little too far with its stylistic flourishes, which are not really necessary – a time lapsed sequence in an airport is especially cumbersome. And yet, even as the film becomes more formulaic as it moves along, it is held afloat by the wonderful performances. Anton Yelchin is so sweet faced and lovable, that even when you question his motives and his actions, you can’t help but feel for him. Even better is Felicity Jones, who is simply luminous as the young women in love, who behaves perhaps stupidly because of that love. This is a star making performance for her – trust me, you’re about to see a lot more of her.

Overall, Like Crazy is a sweet and beguiling romance that worms its way into your heart, even though you know it’s most likely destined for failure. The final scene of the movie, with no words, is quietly heartbreaking, and leaves you wishing that another ending was possible, even though you know there isn't.

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