Mark Reviews Movies

Like Crazy

LIKE CRAZY

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Drake Doremus

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and brief strong language)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 10/28/11 (limited); 11/4/11 (wider)


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Review by Mark Dujsik | November 3, 2011

Whatever one's thoughts on the subject of such things as soul mates and destiny, there is no denying that Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) are supposed to be together. If they were not together, they would have nothing to talk about as individuals. It would be simple to label their bond in Like Crazy a co-dependent one, but there's a more existential nature to it: The world revolves, stops, and resumes turning based on whether or not they are in a relationship. When they are, it's all sunshine and walks on the beach and lying in bed together all day; when they aren't, it's all gloom and late-night text messages and dead eyes while everyone else having fun.

Both states of being with them are obnoxious. Co-writer/director Drake Doremus evokes the passion of young love by having his two leads stare deeply into each other's eyes—not saying a word. It's saccharine sweet in a neutral-to-slightly-positive way for the first five minutes or so as we grow accustomed to the tempo of their quickly developing feelings for one another. By the time Doremus starts his second or third montage (out of many more) of the two characters in generic scenes of budding romance, it becomes apparent that they exist not as human beings but as a concept—a dull, irritating, and broad concept.

Jacob is a teacher's aid for a journalism class at a California university, which Anna, a U.K. native, attends on a student visa. The two lock eyes for the first time after she reads a long essay on the nature of modern journalism (emphasizing her book smarts so that her lack of common sense later is more apparent), and she leaves a two-page (both sides) note on the windshield of his car.

Their first date is uneventful, though this does set the pace for the remainder of their relationship. They talk about their backgrounds over coffee—interrupted by awkward pauses and smiles. Anna invites him up to her apartment, where they do less talking and have more clumsy pauses and knowing grins. As he's about to leave, Jacob discovers that he cannot and returns to the door of her building, where they touch hands through the glass, beaming at each other all the while, naturally.

Doremus and Ben York Jones' screenplay is supposedly bolstered by improvised dialogue from the actors, and it's a reminder of a key lesson regarding improvisation: Actors improvising dialogue is generally a bad idea. Here, without characters who exist outside of their romantic entanglements, Yelchin and Jones—charming as they may be—are left to tread water. It becomes particularly embarrassing when either must give vague statement of affection or, when things go awry later on, express jealousy or longing. Doremus' reliance on montage only further hampers matters, wasting time with wordless, successive shots their dating when the time could be better spent allowing the couple to find the words that would render them as more than one-dimensional representations of crazy, youthful love. It would at least permit us to see them as more than only children and admirers of Paul Simon's music.

The crux of their downfall arrives when Anna's visa expires. At first, she had planned on returning to England for the summer, where she would spend time with her family and start the process of obtaining a work visa so that she might return to continue her relationship with Jacob. Their smiles dim a bit as the time for temporary separation moves closer, and their bright eyes turn sad and unable to catch those of the other. On a whim, she changes her mind and decides her time would be better spent in bed with her boyfriend (Insert montage).

To no one's surprise but Jacob and Anna's, when she tries to re-enter the United States after a brief trip overseas for a wedding, immigration officials refuse her entry and send her back to London. The two go about coping fairly well. Jacob starts a business designing and building furniture (all of it chairs) and starts dating Sam (Jennifer Lawrence); Anna begins an internship at a magazine where she rapidly moves up the ladder and eventually starts dating Simon (Charlie Bewley). Both of the alternatives come across as more endearing characters, if only because they are not the central ones.

In between, Jacob and Anna delude themselves and each other that they can make this work, even though it seems that neither really wants to do so in the first place. The resulting rhythm—separated, together, separated, together—is monotonous, and our sympathy is spent on those people around them, who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in the pull of the duo's web of self-involvement (In a world where cinematic justice exists, there would be a sequel in which Sam and Simon exact revenge on these two for the emotional toil they cause).

Like Crazy is nearly as deluded as its main couple, especially as it inevitability progresses toward a resolution of the tragedy of getting what one wants. It's not tragic; it's karma.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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