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LIKE CRAZY. Grade: C-
Cast: Anton Yelchin (Jacob); Felicity Jones (Anna); Jennifer Lawrence (Sam); Charlie Bewley (Simon); Alex Kingston (Jackie); Oliver Muirhead (Bernard)
Credits: Directed by Drake Doremus; written by Doremus and Ben York Jones; produced by Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling. A Paramount Vantage release.
Love stories are complicated cinematic beasts and rarely work because audiences fail to connect with the protagonists. Much ptaise has been heaped on director Drake Dorms’ Sundance darling, Like Crazy, a film that one can say exemplifies the best and worst in Indie cinema. The story itself is simple enough: Initially set in LA, British college student Anna [Felicity Jones] falls for American student Jacob [Anton Yeltsin], only to be separated from him when she’s banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa. The film spans two continents and several years as the young couple try to make their often intense relationship work despite its addictive nature and the roadblocks that exist, including other affairs, the cultural divide and incessant emotional ebbs and flows.
Films that explore the addictiveness of relationships are common in the world of Indie cinema, and that of Like Crazy begins on a promising and compelling enough note. Director Dorms creates the urgency of the Anna/Jacob relationship with prolonged silences and a sense of rare intimacy without resorting to overt sexuality. The opening scenes are beautifully crafted, and one can see in Felicity Jones, an actress of exquisite depth and intelligence. But then the film takes on a direction that seems to reduce its initial honesty into something less appealing. Anna’s own stupidity, an act that really has a negative effect on the relationship from that point onward, mars the film’s other wise ferocious honesty. It’s all well and good for critics to talk about the honesty of this relationship when the film’s premise relies on a major piece of deception on the part of an otherwise intelligent character. In order for the film to work, one has to commit to the couple throughout, and yet their actions defy credibility.
In some ways there is an emotional dishonesty to the film that makes one angry at this couple, rather than allows us to feel empathy. Like Crazy is more infuriating than it is emotionally honest.
However, the one major positive aspect of the film is the performance of Felicity Jones, who did win an award at Sundance. Beautiful and intoxicating, her rich, multi layered performance does at least make the film more interesting than it deserves, while Yeltsin is less convincing, more one note and simplistic playing the least interesting of the two characters. Director Doremus, who also co-wrote the script, has a sharp visual eye, and his cinematic sense of detail, especially in the way the film contrasts London and coastal Los Angeles shows promise.
There is much to like and admire about Like Crazy, and one only wishes that the film’s exploration of these characters was more honest than it suggests on the surface. The film is ultimately not nearly as complex as it pretends to be.
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Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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