Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Like Crazy: Bound Together Despite the Ocean

Like Crazy
Directed By: Drake Doremus
Written By: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, and Oliver Muirhead
Director of Photography: John Guleseria, Editor: Jonathan Alberts, Production Designer: Katie Byron, Original Music: Dustin O’Halloran
Rated: PG-13 for the foolish troubles that happen with first love.

            Allow me to get much too personal for a moment, though it all leads to a point. I dated an amazing girl for quite some time, and it was my first big relationship. There was a point, however, when it was coming to a place where I thought I’d be leaving New York for good, and she would be staying. I began to seriously consider whether our relationship, which had gone on for over a year and a half, was forever, and whether it would be worth it to begin to play the “long distance” game. I thought one of us would get hurt, or make a decision we would come to regret. As it turned out, I stayed in New York, but that conversation with myself never ended, and eventually broke up with her, knowing I was being both unfair to her and myself. Now I’m too young to ever consider myself an expert on love, but all I know is that four months later, the pain still stings. I find myself constantly looking back at the shadows, not because I want to be followed, but just because I want to make sure she still exists out there. First love is impossible to forget.

            So did I find Like Crazy to be a good film about the insanity of love to drives people both together and apart? Not particularly. However, that never stopped me from feeling the emotional sting of every twist and turn, even if they didn’t follow logically. Like Crazy, directed and co-written by Drake Doremus, follows two young, beautiful people as they struggle to stay together under difficult circumstances. The two lovers, played by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) and Felicity Jones (The Tempest), are the bright eyed hopefuls that often inhabit the cinematic space, despite Mr. Doremus’s attempted realism. But damn if I didn’t feel their pain, no matter how silly it may be.
           We first meet Jaocb (Mr. Yelchin) and Anna (Ms. Jones) in a college course in Los Angeles. She leaves him an adorably long note that ends with “Please don’t I’m a nutcase,” and they soon go off on one of those typical indie dates that includes a lot of talking, a mutual love of Paul Simon, and a number of moments where they don’t kiss, and it’s even cuter because of it (get a tree house in Brooklyn, you two!). 
 
            Anna and Jacob don’t seem that much different from the usual young lovers of recent films like Blue Valentine, and dating all the way back to Before Sunrise. However, like the former film, we skip the bulk of the happy, loving time and head straight into conflict. After years of wistful young love (he builds her a chair, she writes him stories about their relationship), she must go back to the United Kingdom as her Visa expires. But she decides on a whim to stay for a few extra months, and later pays the consequences when she can’t return to the States later.

            Like Crazy then paints a sort of strange will-they-won’t-they story of whether these two young lovers can overcome boundaries and make it work. Jacob is afraid to drop everything to live in the UK, where he believes he won’t be able to make it furniture business work (as well as brandish his terribly unfortunate-looking goatee). Anna gets a job at a magazine and quickly becomes a superstar, but her attempts to revoke the ban appear despondent. Jacob makes the occasional trip, yet both are plagued by other lovers in their sights (Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley, both terribly underused as basically stand-ins). However, the resist to go back to each other, no matter the insanity of the circumstances, always remains. 

            The problem with Like Crazy is that a lot of this does seem particularly contrived, despite its aim for realism. Mr. Doremus uses mainly handheld and will clutter the foreground of the frame in an attempt to give the film an observational quality. But perhaps had he gone more polished, and more compositional with his frames, the melodramatic elements of the script would have fit more in. And whenever Mr. Doremus decides to flair his screen up with a montage, it stings of bad Sundance stylistics (where the film originally premiered). Perhaps some of the lack of composure comes from the fact Mr. Yelchin and Ms. Jones improvised most of their dialogue, and for the most part, they seem to create a believable relationship, even if the circumstances of the script never ring true.

            Like Crazy, like so many other films before it, tries to define this crazy thing we know as love, and how it can all drive us insane. It’s a messy movie, but it is also one that understands the big picture. As the two lovers stare into each other’s eyes in a late scene, Mr. Doremus uses flash edits of their past to remind them of what they’ve longed for so long. But he didn’t need that little trick—anyone who has been madly, deeply in love, will understand how they can never let go.

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