British-born Anna (Felicity Jones) is living in the US on a student visa when she meets and falls in love with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). When her visa expires, she throws caution to the wind and decides to stay In California with Jacob. When she finally does go home to prepare to come back to him, she is denied entry to the United States because of her expired student visa. Anna and Jacob must make the decision to have a long distance romance or go their separate ways in “Like Crazy.”
“Like Crazy” garnered a number of film fest awards, including Sundance, and I ask the question: why? This cute and cuddly romantic drama seems aimed at mid-teen aged girls with its attractive leading couple – Yelchin is too precious for words – trying to live together/apart in what is a fantasy world. The trouble is, the romantic fantasy is hollow and contrived and the characters, though adorable, are shallow. There is little personality in Anna and Jacob and no chemistry between the actors. Felicity Jones becomes cloying, annoying and unfaithful and cuts too cute. Yelchin is just OK as Jacob. Neither character works for me.
Writer-director Drake Doremus, with co-scribe Ben York Joins, fills “Like Crazy” with the standard clichés of young love – finger tips touch through a window, walking on the beach hand-in-hand, having fun at an amusement park, driving bumper cars (when did you last actually see bumper cars) and always laughing and smiling. Of course, these idyllic times come to an end and the story gets really confused with marriage, separation, infidelity and falling out of love jumbled together so much I could not figure out who, actually, loves whom,
As I said, “Like razy” will appeal to teenage girls but no one else that I can think of will get it. I know I did not. I give it a C-.
Furniture design major Jacob (Anton Yelchin, 2011's "Fright Night") doodles in his notebook while Anna (Felicity Jones, 2010's "The Tempest") presents her paper, but that doesn't deter her from leaving a long, emotionally open letter on his windscreen. Jacob calls and the two get together and seem made for each other. When Anna's student Visa is about to expire, she decides to abandon caution to the winds to spend her summer with her lover in L.A., but once she's back in England the U.S. denies her return. Anna and Jacob miss each other "Like Crazy."
The altitude at Sundance must account for some of the films its audience designates as hits. While this year's fest has spawned a number of terrific films, "Like Crazy" isn't one of them. Cowriter (with his "Douchebag" star Ben York Jones)/director Drake Doremus has a good central idea - exploring all the ways that distance can wear away at a relationship, even with today's instantaneous means of communication - but the couple he's created suffer from a real imbalance. A couple of months ago I noted that the teenaged lovers in Gus Van Sant's "Restless" behaved like 10 year-olds. Now along comes the far less seasoned Doremus with college-aged Gen-Yers acting like they're in the throes of the first romance of fifteen year-olds. Even parents behave irresponsibly. And, put simply, Anna is an unappealing character, needy and dishonest and immature. Yelchin's Jacob, on the other hand, is someone worth rooting for. He's sensitive, compassionate and tries to do the right thing. Was it Doremus's intent for us to want Jacob to move on?
Doremus does get many details right, like how Jacob 'learns' to appreciate his English girlfriend's Scotch, later bonding with her dad Bernard (Oliver Muirhead, "Alvin and the Chipmunks") over the amber liquid. Jacob's entire arc rings true, except, maybe, for his inability to commit to Sam (Jennifer Lawrence, Yelchin's "The Beaver" costar), the American girlfriend who's clearly more suited to him and his business. Yelchin expresses many things by manipulating a shy, barely there smile. You can feel his level of discomfort visiting in England before he voices it. Meanwhile Anna's more operatic, throwing herself into a new job blogging for a magazine and the circle that comes with it while also pining away for Jacob when she's not distracted. I'm sure Felicity Jones was directed to act this way in service to the character, but there is nothing about her performance that allows one to connect with her. And Doremus makes some insane moves in his 3rd act that defy logic when it comes to her and her parents' (mom Jackie is played by "ER's" Alex Kingston) actions.
Even in the better, early stages of the film, there are questionable choices made. "Like Crazy" must be the third film this year I've seen where a couple flirt via bumper cars. Now, just what is it about bumper cars? I personally cannot remember the last time I've even seen them - have they become retro chic or something or is this just becoming another tired movie cliche?
In short, first love, well played; long term relationship's messes, too soap opera. For a more enjoyable take on the same subject, check out the underrated Drew Barrymore/Justin Long comedy "Going the Distance."
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