By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
Like Crazy showed up on my radar when it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance film festival. Past winners in the decade have included Precious and Frozen River, and indie favorites Little Miss Sunshine and Juno got big pushes from the festival in years past. So, it seemed likely Like Crazy would stand to benefit from that as well, either in the Oscars or at least as an obvious recommendation for a watch. Well, no and kinda.
The film has similarities to last year’s excellent Blue Valentine, in that it is a warts and all examination of the course of a relationship. The lovebirds this time are an American studying carpentry (Anton Yelchin) and a British girl studying journalism in the same California college (Felicity Jones).
I have no relevant reason why I always see Keri Russell when I hear that name
When she overstays her visa in an ill-advised attempt to prolong her summer of romance, the relationship gets its obstacle to overcome, as the two lovers battle the perils of U.S. Immigration and long distance relationships.
The former being slightly less intimidating
Director Drake Doremus set out to create as realistic dialogue and acting as he could, forgoing a traditional script for a bare bones plot outline and letting his leads do the rest. This works to some extent, as the dialogue is very naturalistic, and Yelchin and particularly Jones do great work. The beginning scenes of their meeting and falling in love up to their first separation are both touching and believable.
Doremus’s directing is probably the best feature of the film, and his is a name I’ll be keeping an eye on. He has a gift for shot selection and showing over telling, and the inventive editing in a few sequences is a joy to behold.
As intriguing as the intent was, the bare bones script also hampered the execution. Charlie Bewley and especially Jennifer Lawrence are utterly wasted as romantic alternatives for the two. All Lawrence gets to do is make a few faces and serve as a plot point, and it’s a question mark as to why she agreed to do this in the first place.
Nah, I don’t need lines. I’m just an Oscar-nominated actress and all.
More importantly, though, the script fails to provide the buttressing the relationship needs for us to maintain interest after its start. At a certain point any emotional investment you might have had in them being together has evaporated and you wonder what is wrong with calling it a day and shacking up with poor, mute Jennifer Lawrence. Then it becomes clear these unhappy commitment-o-phobes really just deserve each other, which I don’t think was the aim of the film exactly.
I have to tack on another beer for Anton Yelchin. I’m not going to dispute he’s a better looking guy than myself (it’s Hollywood, after all), but that’s not the same as saying he’s good looking. I’m not sure what sorcery we’re supposed to believe he employed to land both Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, but I’m not buying it, pretty much because he looks like the lovechild of John Cazale and Richard Simmons.
Or, in this picture, just the product of Frodo and Gollum’s forbidden passion.
It’s a fine acting showcase and demonstrates the intriguing potential of all involved, but that can’t overcome a plot that never quite convinces us to care.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every time shift
Take a Drink: for every fight or separation
Drink a Shot: whenever Yelchin kinda acts like a dick