Like Crazy wants to be this year’s Blue Valentine. Paradoxically it also wants to be a romantic love story. Despite some nice performances and an understated feel, the movie leaves much unsaid about a pair of people who, even after spending two hours with them, we’re not sure if they belong together.
The film has a documentary feel that stresses real moments. This gives us small petty fights and cute moments with the pair in bed together, but it also shares with us long stretches that would have been better off on the cutting room floor. Too often the film’s rabid embrace of realism gets in the way of basic storytelling.
Like Crazy begins with the meeting of British exchange student Anna (Felicity Jones – think a more bubbly version of Emma Roberts) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin). The pair hit it off immediately and the glory days of their relationship is a montage blur until Anna’s Visa expires and she has to return home. Against the advice of some very cool movie parents (Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead) Anna overstays her time in America.
On attempting to return to Jacob, after attending a wedding back home, Anna learns the harsh reality of messing with the United States government. Anna finds herself barred from entry back into the States and so begins an on-again, off-again, on-again long distance relationship by the couple to try and keep their love alive.
Although the film shows us that the pair have genuine affection for each other, one of the biggest problems with Like Crazy is it never seems to decide if the characters should be together. They definitely want to be together, but as time passes and they mature separately it’s not clear if they are any better together than they would be apart.
In fact the film makes a convincing argument that the two lovers are actually better off separately. Both begin serious relationships with others (Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley) during their breaks. Not only do circumstances screw up their relationship with each other, both Anna and Jacob have no qualms about putting others who they have allowed to love them in turmoil when the mere possibility of reuniting with each other is broached again.
I compared it to Blue Valentine, but Like Crazy is also similar (especially in its psuedo-documentary feel) to Once. However, where Once gave us two characters united by love and music, Like Crazy only gives us two characters who like each other quite a lot (most of the time) and enjoy spending time together doing the most mundane everyday things the script can come up with.
Like Crazy goes against convention by providing a movie love story for those who refuse to accept the confines of today’s typical movie romance. Sure we get a cute meeting, but it’s far more awkward than in your typical Hollywood fare. The film also attempts to limit the regular Hollywood romantic trappings of fate, odd coincidences, and big heart-swelling moments, in favor of focusing on the small quiet moments you spend with, or apart, from the one you love.
Even with these issues, I still enjoyed Like Crazy (if at times it had me squirming in my seat). Its stars work well together and the film does a good job of showcasing their chemistry. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Anna portrayed and framed as a little less quirky and giggly, but that’s a minor quibble.
I will say kudos to the filmmakers for landing Kingston and Muirhead as the coolest pair of movie parents around. And although Bowley gets the short end of the stick as Anna’s other guy, Jennifer Lawrence does a good job in breathing some real emotion into a character who, let’s be honest, Jacob might be better off with.
Like Crazy is similar, though far less cinematic, than One Day from earlier this year. In that film the two lovers are kept apart by one the the character’s unwillingness to grow up and love as an adult. Here the situation isn’t either characters’ fault, as they are kept apart by situations beyond their control, but the effect is much the same. However, in One Day when Jim Sturgess decides he’s ready for a real relationship with Anne Hathaway there’s an actual turning point in the film. Here the situation is resolved for the star-crossed lovers through no action of their own. They don’t so much earn the right to be together as are simply granted that right after several years of constant unhappiness.
The film is left open-ended much like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (both superior love stories in every way imaginable) allowing the audience to decide for themselves the final fate of the pair. If the film has a major failing, it’s after spending so much time with them, both together and apart, I’m not sure what to root for. And I’m not sure the film does either.
Despite its attempts to deliver an emotional impactful love story, Like Crazy makes no good argument that the characters would be better off together, or with anyone else. Considering how much damage they do to each other, and their other partners, both might be far better off alone.
Written by Ben York Jones and Drake Doremus (who also directed) the movie feels like a project by to young filmmakers who are still working it all out. At times Like Crazy with feels like a clumsy student film, and yet there are some wonderful moments as well. It’s enough to drive you, like, crazy.