Sunday, January 22, 2012

Like Crazy (2011)

Drake Doremus's Like Crazy does not waste any time. The movie is intended to be about a relationship between a boy and a girl, so why bother with unnecessary back story when you can get straight into it? The pair flirt within the film's first minute, and within five minutes, they are an item.

In this case, the boy, Jacob, is portrayed by Anton Yelchin, and the girl, Anna, by Felicity Jones. Throughout the 90-minute feature, we are exposed to the very beginning of their relationship, and how the relationship evolves through long distance perils, immigration perils, and other life perils, which is convenient, because a perilous relationship  makes for a much better story than a smooth-sailing one.

Jacob, an American, meets Anna, who is English, while they are in college in Los Angeles. Anna, who still lives in England, is in the states via a student visa. Jacob happens to the the teacher's assistant for one of Anna's classes, and that is how they meet.

What makes Like Crazy work is the real performances by Yelchin and Jones, who share a terrific on-screen chemistry. Their relationship seems very natural and authentic, and it makes the viewer believe that there truly is something between them. The progression of their relationship from "dating" to "couple" is conveyed through a four or five second clips of romantic escapades of the two, streamed one after the other; a montage, if you will. The absence of pop music is much appreciated, and instead, the voiceless music presents an almost nostalgic backdrop, making the viewer reminisce of their own first loves as they watch. It's a nice presentation of young, blissful emotion by Mr. Doremus.

But the bliss does not linger of course, when Anna, who decided to stay in Los Angeles over the summer to remain with Jacob, rather than returning home, overstays her school visa. As a result, when she attempts to return, she is disallowed into the county and is returned to England.

Jacob, an aspiring furniture designer, has no intention of moving to England. Whereas Anna, a writer, can no longer visit the states until she clears up the visa issues -- which apparently takes years. I don't think I can explain the dilemma any more clearly.

It's evident that Like Crazy makes an effort to avoid conventional romance cliches. And for the most part, it does. Doremus uses the "shaky camera" approach when filming his movie, giving the film a more real feel. Additionally, he employees a very voyeuristic style. Instead of inserting the camera directly in front of his characters, he's off to the side. Sometimes we're even watching Jacob and Anna from a different room, or from behind a tree, as if we are ourselves are there, observing the couple from a distance.

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in Like Crazy.
Doremus also penned the script, along with co-writer David York Jones, and the two deserve credit for making it very age-appropriate. It's not overly witty, or doesn't try too hard to be funny, but to sum it up best, the characters say things that any young couple would say. In fact, I hate to say it, but the dialogue throughout the film even borders on being cute.

The film doesn't avoid conventional cliches throughout it's entirety, however. We follow the couple as they move on with their lives, and try to make things work, then give up, then visit each other and try again, then take a break, and then finally they -- well, I'm not going to spoil it. Other subplots and minor characters arrive of course. Anna's parents (Alex Kingston and Olivier Muirhead) check in every now and then, and are very vocal about their love for whiskey (in a non-alcoholic way). Additionally, each character has their own romantic fling to muddle the plot, Jacob's being a lovely Jennifer Lawrence (her second movie this past year where she shares a romance with Yelchin, the first being Jodie Foster's The Beaver) and for Anna, a completely bland and dull Brit named Charlie Bewley, who she shares no chemistry with whatsoever.

As the relationship becomes muddled, between the visa issues and such, so does the film to an extent. The last 30 minutes or so take on a much different tone than the first 60. It may have been intentional, as Doremus is trying to portray how the characters are fed up with their inconvenient situation.

The film is also very modern, heavily incorporating things like smart phones and blogs into the mix. Doremus, only 28, is part of generation Y, and is clearly at an age where he fully understands today's technologies, and knows how to incorporate them properly into his work.

But Like Crazy is all about Jacob and Anna. I mentioned how the film has a very nostalgic feel to it. Though you're only just meeting them for the first time, when you watch Yelchin and Jones together, you'll almost feel like you've known them for years. And even after the credits finish rolling, you may even find yourself still thinking about them.

~ Review by Ddubbs

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