Too often, in an attempt to be realistic, independent romances feel far more contrived than conventional Hollywood romances. Sadly, this is the case with Like Crazy.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy follows Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), two young people who fall in mad and passionate love. Jacob is a furniture designer and Anna is a budding young British writer. She is studying in Los Angeles on a student visa and after falling in love with Jacob, decides to overstay it by two months. Of course, the United States doesn’t care for foreign nationals breaking its laws and so after trying to re-enter the States after a trip home, Anna is banned from the country and returned to the U.K. Due to this ban, Jacob and Anna struggle to keep their passionate love intact across a massive distance as ordinary life gets in the way.
There is some honesty about the nature of relationships in Like Crazy. It seems to understand that life itself is often the biggest challenge to a relationship and that self-sacrifice and honesty are key to making any relationship work. As well, the fact that Yelchin and Jones improvised the majority of the scenes is impressive.
However, director Drake Doremus creates a cyclical rhythm too early on in the film and never breaks from it. The film works in cycles. Anna and Jacob find a way to come together for a fleeting period, realize that maybe this relationship isn’t ideal, return to their lives and before long they begin to miss each other again. What this cycle does is make the film predictable at every turn. None of the scenes are allowed to breath. Each scene highlights one emotion and is never allowed to play out and encompass all the shades of romance. Most of the film seems more like a highlight reel than an actual story.
The result is that Like Crazy actually feels far more conventional than most Hollywood romances. You can predict every beat of the story, every emotional entanglement, every painful separation followed by wistful yearning. The worst sin of many American independent films is that in their attempts to approximate authenticity, they become boring. While Like Crazy isn’t necessarily boring, it is dull. For a film about passionate love, it seems mighty passionless.
The worst part of Like Crazy is its cinematography. The cinematography is limited, consisting almost entirely of close-ups. The lovers are rarely photographed in the same shot, even in the brief scenes where they are geographically together. The camera is shaky and erratic. Every close-up, zoom, and cut seems to be going for that groaning-inducing indie-look, intending to be beautiful but authentic, and all too painfully real.
If you have ever been in love, you may feel some empathy for Anna and Jacob, but whatever powerful emotions you feel, it is not the film’s doing. It is merely you transposing your own feelings about love onto this shallow romance.
Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are fine actors. Like Crazy is undeserving of their fine performances. Drake Doremus needs to go watch some old Hollywood movies and learn how to make a film romance that is both true and interesting. And, you know, actually tell a story. Before whatever Like Crazy may be, it is not a story. It is the highlights of a romance, not an exploration of the thing itself.
Like Crazy (2011)
Directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones; starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence.
5 out of 10