‘Like Crazy’ suffers from its singular, one-track vision

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Like Crazy

Directed by Drake Doremus

United States, 2011

The romance is a dying film genre. The large majority of romantic films are hybrids – romantic comedies, romantic thrillers – but the straightforward romance doesn’t raise its head as frequently its other long-standing genre counterparts. Drake Doremus’ sophomore film, the Sundance hit Like Crazy, is therefore a bit of an anomaly in 2011.

Jacob (Anton Yelchin) is a furniture designing college senior who falls head over heels for his poetic classmate Anna (Felicity Jones). When summer looms Anna decides, in the heat of the moment, to overstay her visa. Unable to return to the United States because of the violation, the two embark on a rocky on-again, off-again cross-continental relationship.

Featuring a beautiful, hip cast, Like Crazy finds a cinematic cousin in 2009’s (500) Days of Summer. Unlike that film, Doremus’ effort is less interested in its color scheme, filmic homage, and all-out coolness, as it is in character development. This is both an asset and a detriment. Either Jacob or Anna is always onscreen. This is a film about two people, and we care about them early on and for the duration. Their decisions are weighty and dramatic, their love real. However, the back-and-forth documentation of their relationship starts to feel redundant after awhile. The few side characters that populate the film don’t offer enough of a reprieve from the overly-focused, one-goal story that they could, and by the third act character likeability fails to continue to hold water as the lone compelling reason for watching.

This comparison to (500) Days of Summer isn’t to say that Like Crazy isn’t visually inventive. It is, but less in a music video way, and more in a 60-second Gap commercial way. Doremus utilizes time-lapse photography, frequent jump cuts, and numerous musical montages to compress a yearlong story into the short runtime. Some of these moments, like a rapid-fire series of overhead still shots of Jacob and Anna in various sleeping positions, serve a dual purpose: move the story forward and advance their relationship without dialogue (i.e. they are comfortable together).

Others, like a time-lapse shot in an airport as Anna waits for Jacob to return to the UK, serve the same purpose, but feel tired and overdone. The feeling is still there – Anna misses Jacob – but the time compression plays counter to the adage “time flies when you’re having fun,” and makes it something more like, “a watched pot boils.” For a film that is very much about waiting and anticipation, there’s very little of either in Like Crazy.

To their credit the cast is excellent. Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead turn in scene-stealing performances as Anna’s boisterous, whiskey-loving parents, Jackie and Bernard. Yelchin and Lawrence, charged with the heavy burden of creating a relationship from scratch in a reportedly oft-improvised film shoot, make a believable and charming pair, filling their characters with little tics that only a couple share.

Like Crazy also relies heavily on its audience’s recollection of past, young love. Unlike most other romance films, which take their time to slowly develop, which depend on a sex scene to advance the idea that characters are in love, and where a climactic incident similar to Anna’s visa troubles might come at the midway point or later, Like Crazy establishes the relationship right away, and almost entirely without use of sex scenes. Doremus’ jump-cutting, time-compressing strategy does away with any deliberate evolution and demands that the viewer recall his or her first love to fill in any narrative blanks.

A harmless, at times touching film, Like Crazy ultimately suffers from its singular, one-track vision and a filmmaking method that is frequently at odds with the story content.

 

– Neal Dhand

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