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Like Crazy, one of the most buzzed about films coming out of Sundance earlier this year, is about love at its most frustrating. The film’s protagonists can’t see the forest for the trees. They’re so caught up in how they feel in the moment that they make foolish decisions that threaten to really hurt them in the long run. Not exactly what you’d expect from a girl wearing a bracelet that says “Patience.”
Many are praising this young, optimistic look at love, but unfortunately, characters like these (and their real-life counterparts) bug the crap out of me. Spending 90 minutes with them felt like an eternity, especially when the film ebbs and flows in the exact same ways over and over.
It starts with a poem—written by British journalism student Anna (Felicity Jones), given to American furniture design student Jacob (Anton Yelchin). The two share a pleasantly awkward date, but it’s clear by the end of it they are both smitten with each other. They go to the beach and drink whiskey together; Jacob builds Anna a chair and calls it “Like Crazy,” a nod to how much he loves her. Everything is wonderful, until the semester is over and Anna has to go back to Britain. But she can’t bear to leave, so she violates her student visa. And after finally heading home for a wedding, she’s denied re-entry into America, disrupting her perfect relationship with Jacob and making both of them question whether a long-distance romance will be manageable with the temptations and distractions all around them.
Troubled love is hardly a new cinematic topic. Like Crazy‘s angle is that it’s a somewhat-improvised, ultra-realistic look at the subject. That would be fine, if Anna’s and Jacob’s actions actually felt realistic. First, the obvious: Would this bubbly young woman really fall for an antisocial schlub like Jacob? Then, we have their behavior. Is avoiding two months apart really worth the risk they’re taking? Of course not. Had writer/director Drake Doremus done a little more in developing this into the romance of the century, I could have bought their sweet plight. Alas, it isn’t. And I didn’t.
It certainly doesn’t help matters when their problems seem completely of their own doing. Besides the obviously poor decision to ignore Anna’s visa restrictions, there’s the seemingly too-easy solution for Jacob to just move to London to be with her. Here’s a recent college grad with no family, no friends, and an OK job, yet it’s unfathomable to even consider making a sacrifice. What’s worse is that the screenplay acknowledges this repeatedly, only to slyly brush it off as another of fate’s evil twists keeping them apart.
At least Felicity Jones lives up to the early hype coming out of Sundance. While not exactly a three-dimensional character, the camera loves her, and she does bring genuine gravitas to some of the film’s more difficult scenes. Anton Yelchin, unfortunately, gets totally lost in the part of Jacob. Gone is the sparkling charisma he brought to films like Star Trek and Charlie Bartlett. Instead, it’s replaced by long pauses, slightly awkward glances, and a really bad goatee.
Jennifer Lawrence is perhaps the best thing about the film. She plays a California-based rival for Jacob’s affections, and though the part is painfully underdeveloped, she brings more than enough charm to it, making us wonder why in the world she’d fall for a dude like this.
I get that Doremus is trying to make a film more about ideas than character or story, but assertions such as “Young people do foolish things” and “Long-distance love is difficult” aren’t really groundbreaking. The film needs something more—something to hook viewers in emotionally. It just didn’t happen for me. I felt more like a parent, wanting to shake them, than a swept-up accomplice in their unfortunately foolish love story.
Directed by Drake Doremus
Written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence