Directed by: Drake Doremus
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead
Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy is a deeply flawed film that manages nonetheless to distinguish itself by focusing on an aspect of romance that’s rarely addressed in romantic drama. At the same time, make no mistake, this is a far from perfect film that boasts a story requiring such forehead-slapping stupidity on the part of its protagonists—and not just once—that rather than sympathize with them, you may sometimes wish they’d been drowned at birth and saved us all a lot of trouble. It may, in fact, be only that they’re played by such inherently likable actors as Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones that this doesn’t become the overriding response. At best, this is a good movie—never a great one, nor even a very good one. Just good, though that—combined with the cast—may be enough.
One of the film’s main problems lies in its central plot device that has Brit exchange student Anna (Jones) overstay her visa because she’s so all a-dither over Jacob (Yelchin) that she can’t be parted from him for two months (maybe that’s what they mean by “like crazy”). OK, as dumb as this is, the film then compounds the dim-bulb factor by having her subsequently fly back to the U.S. only to be shocked—shocked—to learn that her little visa episode has repercussions—like being tossed into a detainee room and shipped back to Britain. We are apparently supposed to be sympathetic to this rather than merely irritated by her astonishing stupidity.
This, by the way, is not the only problem with Like Crazy. There’s also an unfortunate tendency to overindulge in indie film tropes—like montages that take the place of actual plot development, utterly pointless jump-cuts and at least one of those annoying time-lapse scenes. I won’t even get into the fact that burgeoning furniture-design genius Jacob seems to keep designing the same chair throughout the entire movie. Worse, said chair looks like ... well, a chair. And then there’s one of those “If you get near a tune, play it” tinkly piano musical scores that consists mostly of random notes and the odd chord.
So now that I’ve told you most of the things that I didn’t like about the film, I want to note that there are some innately human aspects to the film that transcend its other limitations and missteps. If it is indeed true—and I think it mostly is—that in every relationship there’s an inherent imbalance of one who loves and one who is loved, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so well expressed as it is here. Generally, such things—at least in movies—are the stuff from which stalker melodramas are made. Like Crazy does, in fact, flirt with that in its opening where Anna leaves a kind of mash note on Jacob’s windshield in which she assures him she’s “not a nutcase,” which makes anyone schooled in movies suspect she might be.
The development of their relationship is interesting, though, in that it’s Jacob who at first works harder (or seems to) to win her over, but once he’s got her, the balance of power changes— something revealed in the fact that it’s Anna who makes the stupidly fateful decision to overstay her visa. There’s soon no question but that Anna is more in love with Jacob than he is with her. That’s not to say that he isn’t, but not to the same degree. If it was, he’d simply move to London and solve the problem (though perhaps the English are less likely to be impressed by his chair than Californians are). But that’s never an option in his mind. He’s also much more ready to take up with someone else—in this case, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), who works with him (presumably designing chairs). In fact, Sam is the classic “good enough for now” girlfriend, who gets treated pretty shabbily if you pause to consider it. There’s a parallel situation with Anna, but her consolation boyfriend (Charlie Bewley, the Twilight series) is much less sympathetic.
What makes all this work—in spite of the rest of the film—is that it’s all so recognizably human in a way that very few movie romances are. That alone makes the film worth consideration. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language.