Every couple of years a film comes out that takes the independent circuit by storm. It’s usually a film billed as a romantic comedy, but ends up being a straight forward, brutally honest romantic drama. Two young, kind of popular stars are cast and a no name director that is sure to get a few project offers that he or she might not have gotten before is in charge. The problem I have with these movies is simple; they aren’t that great. They’re not bad films by any stretch of the imagination, there in fact really enjoyable because of their honesty, but the flaws drag them down from being a great, small little picture that manages to completely capture every audience to a typical depressing romantic drama that struggles staying afloat because of a minor misstep that could have easily been fixed. Like Crazy is one of those movies.
Jacob (Anton Yelchin) is an American college student who has hopes and dreams of being a successful carpenter. He’s your average college student with no real unique traits aside from knowing how to make a mean wooden chair. Anna (Felicity Jones) is a young British woman that is attending college in America in hopes of becoming a writer. She shares deep pieces of her literature to classmates as the rest of the student’s zone out. She’s shy, just like Jacob, but she takes the plunge into love. Anna slides Jacob a simple note/letter. Something harmless and cute that sculpts the rest of the film.
They fall in love. With love there are always problems. Anna is only staying on a student visa and after her schooling is done she must return home to England. She overstays to be with Jacob and eventually returns home. The relationship becomes much more difficult due to the long distance and rate at which Anna goes about getting a vacationing visa. When apart Anna and Jacob can’t seem to function on any sort of normal level, emotionally. They both have jobs; friends and their own set of day-to-day problems, but their hearts are constantly aching, waiting for the other to send a text or phone call.
Jacob and Anna, like most young adults, don’t know exactly how to handle this sort of relationship. They both have wants and needs that the other person can’t fulfill when away. They both have their fair share of depression and lack of human connection and it gets to be unbearable. Faced with only one real solution, they act on impulse and further the seriousness of their relationship. Like Crazy depicts what its really like to be madly in love with someone, to the point of it driving you crazy. It doesn’t sugar coat it or indulge in too much “indie” flare, it stays grounded and simple, using the powerful and heavily emotional performances by Yelchin and Jones to power the film.
It’s one of the more authentic love films in recent memory. It never becomes a studio film, full of clichés or predictable moments. Its intentions are far more important. At the same time it never fully becomes an independent drama with a constant brooding tone. Too often do independent films use their classification to justify being complete downers. Sure, real life can suck sometimes, but not everything is black and hideous. Like Crazy does a great job of balancing the emotions. It’s not afraid to cross into sappy, lovey dovey shit and at the same time it’s not afraid to embrace that shitty feeling you get when a relationship doesn’t pan out the way you wanted it to, despite the strong attraction.
It’s a puppy love film. The two characters are so deeply in love to the point of it becoming sickening. Watching them struggle with their lives when the other person isn’t around is a constant drag, but it’s cancelled out whenever they’re together. When there with each other it’s as if nothing in the world could bring them down or stop them from feeling so strong about each other. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones have no problems whatsoever displaying their emotions and it’s their extremely strong chemistry that makes the film watchable for 75% of its running time.
Jacob is a troubled character that understands when things aren’t going to work out, but just can’t shake the feeling of being in love. He knows he shouldn’t reply to Anna’s 3am sob text message, but he just can’t resist himself. Like Crazy is proof that Yelchin is all grown up and can handle very mature material. He never feels like a kid or a young actor trying to play a strong adult role. He is a young adult and a mature one at that.
Felicity Jones is so beautiful and innocent as Anna. Anna is a strong individual that comes off shy but warms up quickly. She too is in love, but hers comes from confusion. She never knows if what she wants is what she really needs. She’s sometimes afraid to express her emotions towards Jacob, but she usually comes around to her senses.
Both characters are strong and flawed in their own unique ways. They’re not ying and yang and their not cookie cutter by any means. There just two people whose paths collided and sparked love. It gets to the point of not being able to control it. They just cannot for the life of them stop thinking about the other.
And that is where Like Crazy‘s biggest problem comes into play. It creates such a deep relationship between the two that makes you want to watch how it all plays out. You genuinely start to care for both characters, despite the negative things they do. You become strongly attached to the characters and it keeps you interested for most of the film. Then it hits a hard wall. A wall that is never broken. Certain elements of the story start playing on repeat, making you sit through the same emotional bullshit over and over. It’s truly a detaching moment that changes you from enjoying the slow burn disbanding to not caring about a damn thing as long as it ends soon. When movies like this hit this “wall” it becomes a sinking ship fast and unless the film can pull itself together almost everything can be lost.
Like Crazy doesn’t completely lose it, picking up most of the slack in a sad flashback, right before the end credits. It does however lose its reason for caring. Without spoiling much Jacob and Anna both make poor decisions. They try to fix things, fail and try to fix them in a different way and fail again. Things start going in a different path when it suddenly stops and tries going in a path that didn’t work the previous time. It leaves you sitting there, shaking your head.
You can say Like Crazy works as a film because the characters never give up on each other, but the way they go about doing so makes you feel very little for either of them. They do really shitty stuff to other innocent people so that they can be together and then they go and do it all over again. It becomes a tough film to sit through because there is absolutely no character you care about. It cuts off that strong connection you felt for the main characters and leaves you staring at the screening wondering what’s going to happen next.
Then it ends and it ends on a high note. It wraps up the film a little better than the leading minutes would lead you to assume. You’ll be walking out of the theater with a brutally honest take on a long distance relationship and depending on your taste in movies you’ll either love it or hate it.
I fell somewhere in the middle. I appreciated most of the things they tackled so boldly, but I also felt like it was wasting my time towards the end. Trim out 20 minutes towards the end, where the film goes on autopilot repeat and you have yourself a very well written, acted and directed romantic drama that isn’t afraid to go to those dark places. Like Crazy is a really stable film until it breaks down on the side of the road for a 20 minute period, but then it gets things going and closes with a bang. Had the little hiccups not occurred towards the end I could see why Like Crazy won so many awards, but with these errors on the table that were easily fixable, but weren’t makes me indifferent. I can’t help but feel that the movie was good, but just not that great. It’s something that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss, but it’s not all that it’s been hyped up to be.
Like Crazy – 7/10