Directed by Drake Doremus
Written by Drake Doremus & Ben York Jones
Film Festivals are a major source of some of the best films released every year and with each festival comes major buzz surrounding at least one picture. The biggest festival in the world is held every year in Cannes, France and this year at that festival Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life won top honors, and after I saw the film it became my favorite film of the year so far. Another major, and much more local, festival is the Sundance Festival, held each year in Colorado by Hollywood legend Robert Redford. This is a festival which is always chock full of indie darlings and this year Like Crazy took home the festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Drama. After months of buzz, it has finally trickled down into theaters.
The film features a couple great young actors. Anton Yelchin plays Jacob, who is a furniture designer in Southern California. Felicity Jones plays Anna, an ambitious young writer from England who went to college in Southern California. When the two meet the sparks fly quickly and it is evident that they are madly in love with each other, but with graduation inching closer, the two must decide what to do about Anna’s student visa. They decide, instead of being separate for 3 months, to overstay the visa, which ultimately gets Anna deported back to England. The two struggle to maintain their true love relationship at such a distance, but their connection is still undeniable.
I might as well be out with it: this movie just does not really work, and yet it is still impressive for some of its moments. It does not work for two main reasons and I will be out with those and then move on to the positives because there are plenty and those are much more fun to talk about. The film fails in its first footsteps. Right out of the block the two main characters, Jacob and Anna fall in love, but I was almost never really convinced. Sure, they look longingly into each others eyes for a bit, and laugh at each other in their playful pursuits, but we are never given anything to really grab hold of in terms of their romance. As such, it comes off as much more flirtatious and lustful than true romance and love. The second stumble the film makes is the creation of the conflict: Anna being deported for overstaying her visa. This is just stupid because her father and lawyers told them it would happen and they did it anyway. It makes it very hard to create any sympathy from the viewer when the characters do stupid things like this.
However, after these two major issues with the film are overlooked, there are really some nice things going on in the film. First and foremost are the two main performances, which are equally great in their tenderness. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones have great chemistry together and really seem fit to be a couple. And despite the shaky set up to the romance, it slowly becomes convincing due to the heartfelt performances by these two. Their looks of emotion are convincing as the heart grows homesick for the both of them, missing each other like crazy. There are some nice constructions by the director in furthering their connection as well, like the chair which Jacob makes for Anna. But then there are Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) and Simon (Charlie Bewley), which are the much more sympathetic characters in the film. They are the flings on the side for the main characters when they are separated by thousands of miles.
The film is far from being perfect when I feel more sad for the side characters dilemmas than I do for those of the central characters. There are also some confusing continuity things like how it can be night in LA while Jacob talks to Anna at night in London. The film can also obviously be going for the portrayal of a young, naive romance between two love struck “kids” who don’t know any better, and that is probably a more accurate reading. The two, as great a chemistry as they have, are shown multiple times with space between them, even when they are together. Their instincts are that they belong together, but even as the film reaches its resolution, there is a sense of uncertainty, a sense that they really have never lived their relationship in a realistic environment. In this case, I still don’t care too much for Jacob and Anna, which is ultimately the pitfall for what would otherwise have been a good romance film.