Artful romantic comedy despite foolishnessEntertainment News, Movie Review, Section 4A Monday, November 28th, 2011
There’s a kind of bait-and-switch going on with the tagline and title of Like Crazy: “I want you – I need you – I love you – I miss you – Like Crazy.” I got the impression, and I think this was the marketer’s goal, that the movie would be about an obsessive love affair in which the lovers would do just about anything to be together. In most romantic comedies, this behavior is played for guffaws, since the grand gestures at the end of, say, The Graduate,Say Anything, or this summer’s Friends With Benefits would be considered stalking or simply insane in the real world.
Like Crazy is not a fantasy; it’s a naturalistic romance about two young people in love who behave like young people in love. There’s nothing crazy about them or the movie. That it’s still so successful, so entertaining and moving, despite being so honest and realistic, is a testament to the skills of director Drake Doremus, his co-writer Ben York Jones and the two little-known stars of the film, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. The movie is sort of like Weekend for the straight people.
Felicity Jones plays Anna, a British student at a school that is probably U.C.L.A., and she has a crush on Yelchin’s Jacob. A poet and writer and a romantic, she leaves a love note under his windshield wiper. He is charmed, responds, and they fall in love in a sweet, hesitant, nerdy way that Doremus films in a style – handheld camera, quick edits, lingering shots of emotive faces – as sweet and nervous as their courtship. Young and in love, they make a major mistake: Anna decides to overstay her visa and stay with Jacob for the summer, and Jacob allows her to. After she finally goes back to England for a week, she returns to L.A. and customs refuses to allow her to stay. In fact, because of the violation, they refuse to allow her back in the country … for years, even after she and Jacob get married.
(For gay audiences, the story of immigration officials keeping lovers apart is a well-known one, but Anna and Jacob’s entitled outrage irked me slightly. They have hope that waiting and sucking up will work. Gay couples don’t have that hope. Despite Obama’s laudable bureaucratic maneuverings that have given us encouragement, DOMA prohibits bi-national same-sex couples the immigration rights that straight people like Jacob and Anna expect without question.)
The film follows Anna and Jacob as they try to deal with the difficulties of distance, of missed calls, cryptic text messages, work successes and temptations from blonde second choices, played with bland perfection by Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley. This could be a very boring set up for a film, as anyone who saw Drew Barrymore and Justin Long’s Going the Distance can attest. But the love that Yelchin and Jones portray has a mixture of aw-shucks charm, sly wit, and just enough sexiness that I felt the tension so needed for a romance to work. Jones has been getting a lot of press for coming out of nowhere, giving a fierce and smart performance, and winning Best Actress at Sundance for playing Anna. But I was more impressed with Yelchin (best known, perhaps, for playing Chekov in the Star Trek remake), who has never before shown such range or sex appeal. I was rooting for Anna and Jacob on a gut level, even when they were both acting like foolish kids in love, making dumb mistakes and saying dumb things in anger and frustration. Doremus and Ben York Jones have constructed a populist romantic comedy that is truly artful.
Directed by Drake Doremus
Written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence
At Landmark Hillcrest
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