Saturday, November 5, 2011

Like Crazy

A great love story doesn't need much, it can be remarkably simple and still be like magical.  The one thing it needs in spades is a palpable connection between its leading characters.  The posers of Like Crazy wouldn't know a thing about that, instead it's the distance and innate miserablism that bonds the shapeless, dithering that inexplicably captured the Grand Jury Prize at this years Sundance Film Festival.  A sort of indie precocious, hipster version of Sleepless in Seattle, Drake Doremus' dormant little romance makes more mileage out its outre filmmaking process than anything that appears on screen.  Shot without a script, and on the spot with its actors working on small backstories rather than actual words, Like Crazy seems to crave to be the American equivalent of a Mike Leigh enterprise...the problem is that lacks a pulse, a soul, a reason to care about its young lovers.  Minimalist is admirable; boredom is quite another thing, and while it may be a reasonable cause for acclaim to feature a love story around young people without bells and whistles gimmicks or other nonsense, there's a sense and feeling early on, that a fairly tedious affair is in store, and that while showcased as an anecdote to indie romantic whimsy like (500) Days of Summer, there appears not nearly enough crazy, but instead a staid, depressing detachment to our budding young lovers.

The lovers themselves are quite attractive.  Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) meet in the waning days of college in Los Angeles, have an inexplicably nerdy meet-cute moment and fall madly for one another.  Smitten, because I suppose the wordless script told them too.  Truth be said, she's a tad strange, and he's tad quiet and the instant rapport, while perhaps correct in pointing out social awkwardness on first dates, plays so slight, so inconsequential, one sort of wonders why the two agreed to a second date.  She's an aspiring journalist; he's an aspiring furniture maker-- she's also British and on leave on a student visa, needing to return to her jollier-than-realistic parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Murhead) once her university stay is complete.  However, there love is told to us to be pure and once class is dismissed, Anna (the far more outgoing of the two) decides to stay the summer in sunny California with her boyfriend.  What follows is an escalating, and simultaneously depressing and boring cross Atlantic love spell that leaves both parties bitter and lonely.  Slowly the film becomes quite like tedious.

Years pass, and Anna's visa trouble keeps her trapped in England and to the advances of a fitter lad named Simon (Charlie Bewley) and Jacob's booming furniture business keeps him bound to Los Angeles and the comely allure of Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence.)  All the while, the two are distracted, distraught and altogether boring in their affection and devotion to one another.  And that's the problem of Like Crazy in a snap-- there's nothing keeping these two together other than the false romantic notion that meet cute moments can materialize into true love; both really are quite content without one another-- she's becoming a successful writer for an online magazine-- and it's almost in the scenes after their first brush that make that more apparent.  But it's also the overly understated bitter sequences that follow and very slow make Like Crazy like incredibly dull.  Instead we're treated to false montages of implied happiness and stunted scenes of forced sadness.  It becomes apparent too soon that these two are perhaps more in love with the fact that someone has embraced the others inaccessible charm versus any sort of charm floating to the surface.

To Jones' credit, she fairs slightly better (and won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance); she has an offbeat sensibility that manages to save a few excruciating sequences from final doom by her utter refusal to back down, and a uniquely pretty face that grows more interesting as the movie goes on; in truth one suspects she could eat Jacob as an appetizer any day; again the wordless script prevents such actions.  It's unfortunate that Yelchin is one of the more colder of fish on terms of romantic drama-- he's certainly handsome and seemingly game, but out of his depth as a dashing, volatile lead.  The real romance may perhaps lie between the filmmaker and the eternally love struck, hipster sad sack.  C


Amos said...

This might be the first scathing movie review Ive read that actually made me want to see the movie called into question.

James said...

Well, I'll take that as praise!

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