Like Crazy manages to capture some of the elusive whimsy of first love, only to beat it to death with a tedious on again/off again love story and two main characters obstinately selfish and mundane. Indie romance certainly doesn’t need another self-indulgent film full of long scenes of meaningless dialogue and “artsy” photographic interludes, but that’s just what writer/director Drake Doremus offers up in his new film about lost love and growing up.
Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) meet in college. Anna is from London, studying in L.A. on a student visa. She has a crush on Jacob, and after leaving a long note about her feelings for him on his windshield, the two meet up for coffee.
Cue the sentimental music and the “falling for each other” film clip montage. Jacob and Anna have very little in common, besides a mutual attraction and that innocent infatuation that makes everything about someone seem perfect. Their relationship develops quickly, and before long the year is done and Anna has to go back to England before her visa expires.
And though it’s only one summer the two must spend apart, neither is mature enough to accept the parting, and Anna decides to stay the summer even though she is violating her visa. They spend the months laying in bed, talking through the night about nothing in particular, and making scrapbooks.
Then the inevitable happens. Anna goes home, and because she has violated her visa, she can’t get back into the U.S. When it comes time to return to the love of her life, she finds herself being detained at the airport and then deported back to England.
What follows is months of mourning, where both Anna and Jacob try to make it work long distance. The phone calls begin to taper off as their schedules get busier and they both enter the real world, and then they bother kind of agree to see other people until the visa thing is worked out.
Throughout the next few years, their relationship is a frustrating and tedious on again/off again affair. Neither seems able to stay true to the other whilst they are apart, and when Jacob does go to visit Anna they end up fighting and estranged because she still can’t come back to L.A. with him and they’re both frustrated with having to be apart.
All of this culminates in a hurried marriage, which lasts a few weeks, and then a fight that leads to Jacob returning to the U.S. and reuniting with an ex-girlfriend while Anna stays in London and shacks up with another guy.
The end of the movie is as uninspiring as the beginning and middle, and by the time Jacob and Anna come together for the last time the audience no longer cares whether they stay together or not.
The first problem with this film, based on a romance Doremus experienced himself, is that it is inherently self-indulgent. A cathartic filmmaking effort for Doremus perhaps, but for the audience it is a tedious romantic drama that is pointless and certainly mundane. This is a story we have seen on the silver screen often enough, and Doremus’ telling of it offers nothing new.
The next glaring problem is that, besides capturing the mood of first love in a “high school crush” sort of way, the film has no redeeming qualities and features two main characters who are selfish and almost unlike-ably self-centered. They go around and round, and despite their supposed true love they can’t seem to last even a few weeks away from each other without having affairs with other people.
The whole premise, that they couldn’t last a few months apart over the summer so Anna violated her visa, is ridiculous and hardly admirable. It set up two main characters that couldn’t sacrifice their immediate and temporary gratification for the potential of lasting future happiness. And the movie loses all sense of time and chronology as it floats around, riding on the atmosphere developed in the first few sequences of the romance.
Yelchin and Jones have a modicum of chemistry, and their performances were competent. The continual stupidity and selfishness of their characters made them hard to watch for an hour and a half, and Yelchin’s every-guy looks and demeanor left me underwhelmed.
Jennifer Lawrence played Jacob’s girlfriend-on-the-side, and she brought more charisma and shine to her smaller role than both Yelchin and Jones combined. Alex Kingston and Finola Hughes also provided noteworthy performances, but were sadly underutilized as the dragging film dwelled tediously on long, drawn-out “Jacob and Anna” scenes.
Like Crazy returns to well-tred indie romance battleground, and litters it with another cinematic relationship study with little merit beyond some warm atmosphere and a fairly decent capturing of that frivolous yet monumental first love. Unfortunately, the main characters are so self indulgent that it’s impossible to take their relationship, the core of the film, seriously. So it becomes a torturous back and forth that leads nowhere except to a dismal (and far too distant) ending.