Thursday, 24 November 2011

“I just wish I could stay a bit longer, that’s all”

Like Crazy: directed by Drake Doremus; written by Ben York Jones, Drake Doremus
I suspect that it was my burgeoning appreciation for Anton Yelchin, which began with The Beaver earlier this year and then grew with Fright Night, was the reason for my anxiousness in regards to Like Crazy. This was despite the overly logical portion of my brain cognisant to the fact that it seemed poised to be one of those overly fluid, overly artsy, out-of-focus indies which wore its themes on its sleeves. Still, when I get interested in an actor I go all out and Doremus’ Like Crazy turned out to be just as I expected. Usually, I’m wary of people who use the word indie to describe a specific school of cinema - usually it’s not that cut-and-dry really, but all of its posturing and superficial thoughtfulness make Like Crazy seem like the theoretical concept of an “indie” film. It’s not an insult, but…
The term “like crazy” is one which has managed to seep into cultural consciousness meaning something that it suggests – lexically. Really, it just means “very much” when you would expect it to mean frantically, illogically and uncontrollably. And, for the first third of the film as Doremus meanders through the manoeuvrings of that tenuousness of a first real love, the easy lull which the film falls into is puzzling if, perhaps, deceptive. Why do these youngsters warrant a cinematic treatment? For all the things that it gets right (the awkwardness of that first romance, the sweetness which is awfully sweet, but sickeningly so), it gets half as many wrong because we never quite manage to understand the why of their relationship. What is it that makes Jacob so smitten or Anna so willing to disregard the strictures of her visa? They’re in like, maybe even love, but it’s not really crazy. Not yet. Or, not the crazy we’d expect.
Then the crux of the film’s conflict is established – after overstaying her visa Anna is stranded in London unable to see Jacob, who is stuck in Los Angeles. Well, really, Jacob’s not really stuck in LA. His visa is not the one revoked, but – according to the information the audience is given – this recently graduated budding architect has a thriving business which he is just unable to uproot himself from, even for a love that’s *like crazy*. And, right there, probably sounds as if I don’t like the film even though as much as it exasperates me I like its cadence. Content-wise Like Crazy is at times suspect, especially when I start to consider the silliness of their situation. If Jacob is unwilling to relocate, and Anna cannot then it seems like time to listen to that not quite old adage which urges the dawdling person to *ahem* have that bowel movement or vacate the premises. It becomes especially trying when each party begins a relationship with characters that are underdeveloped but sympathetically portrayed. We are never sure of the rules of this long-distance relationship so any dramatic tension to be unearthed there is nil when the audience is unsure whether or not either party is being cheated on or simply partaking in a mutual break. Content-wise, I wonder why these two personable people seem so devoid of friends, or general human contact.

Jones and Yelchn are excellent at maneuvering the childishness that comes with such a romance without preventing from seeming overbearing and even as they're forced at times to play those clichéd moments of "love" on first dates, and mundane bedroom scenes which add nothing to the overall point of the exercise - whatever that is - they're affable together. Lawrence and Bewley both do well as their love-interests, the latter in particularly who is much more charming than the film wants him to be most of the time. The thing is, with two such personable leads I keep wondering why the only people rooting them on, or the only people whose sphere they coexist in are Anna's offbeat parents. Surely, such smart college graduates must have similarly smart college friends to exist with? And, surely this relationship is not really as based on whims as it is portrayed here. Doremus seems so focused on being quirky, and odd that he seems to forget that random little scenes at the beginning do not make a love for all time. And, I start to wonder just why this relationship is worth saving so terribly. I'm moved by what I see because it's beautifully presented, and the actors are lovely, but I don't really feel it. 
Then, that final shot appears with Yelchin’s overly expressive gaze (this guy is a keeper y’all) and I think that, perhaps, the point of it was *was* the sillinees of putting investing in something you’re not fully invested. Their embrace at the end should make us sigh in relief, but we’re still holding our breath waiting for something. And, I suspect, so are Anna and Jacob. They are unwilling to severe the ties of their relationship bullheadedly determined to hold on to that one true love unable to realise that it’s, like, crazy to do so. Maybe if Doremus had invested more times in building the importance of their relationship, and not the superficial posturing of it, it would have been more effective. And, then, I think I couldn't possibly be writing all these words on a film I don't care. And  maybe this is just the film Doremus wanted to make, but I can't be certain. Its craziness is lacking in intensity but high on irrationality. But, it really is a sweet, little thing, it just never really settles enough for me to love it.


Dan O. said...

This kind of took me by surprise considering I was not expecting to be so taken away by the realistic feel this film gives off, except for some schmaltzy moments. Though, the chemistry between Jones and Yelchin is great and they really do have us believe in these two as a couple. Good review Andrew.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

dan going on the rumblings i'd hard i'd expected this type of indie outlook on love, it was nice ultimately, though.


TomS said...

Andrew, I found much to like in "Like Crazy". It is slight, as you say, but to me, something like a spring breeze: it barely registers, but it's affecting. Part of Doremus' quirkiness might be the result of his experiment with his lead actors improvising dialogue. Except for some gaps in the plot later in the film, I was unexpectedly moved by it. Check out my review...