Like Crazy

7 Dec

Title: Like Crazy
Year: 2011
Director: Drake Doremus
Writers: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual content and brief strong language
Runtime: 90 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%

This is another one of those films I went into with huge expectations, the buzz surrounding it coming out of Sundance, particularly Felicity Jones’ performance, was pretty amazing, and the story the film was telling seemed like one that had all the makings for a film that I would really love. Yes, in a way it’s a typical love story, and while it does have some of the typical elements of one, there are also other aspects to it that make it stand out as a hugely original and heartbreaking experience. It’s about first love, a love that’s intensely real and amazing, one that’s between a British girl studying in the States who falls in love with her American classmate, only to then violate the terms of her visa and be forced to go back to the U.K.

What we see then is the two trying to make it together, trying to make the bliss of their passion stand tall even though they’re physically apart. And boy does this film work exceptionally well, it works because of the characters, because of Anna and Jacob, and how much development Ms. Jones and Anton Yelchin take them through in just ninety minutes, creating a relationship between the two that becomes tremendously real as Like Crazy becomes one of the finest explorations of love I’ve seen in recent years. Seriously, the relationship these two actors create is a tangible one, and it transcends the screenplay for the film, as it’s been said that the script only gave outlines of the scenes and where they had to go while most of the dialogue was actually improvised by the two actors, this certainly enabled the two of them to really get into their characters, to feel like them, and gave us some scenes that are just perfectly honest.

This is just a phenomenal love story that co-writer/director Drake Doremus has given us here, and in Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones he has found the perfect actors for these roles. These are two young actors (he’s 22, she’s 28) that are just on the verge of breaking into the big leagues. Mr. Yelchin has been giving some really nice turns in films like this year’s The Beaver and Fright Night (both B+’s from me) and has the role of Pavel Chekov in the terrific reboot of the Stark Trek franchise (he’s set to reprise it for the sequel due in 2013) to get to larger audiences, and he’s seriously outstanding here. And Ms. Jones is just the best part about this movie, a true star-making performance, one of the best given by a leading female all year in my opinion, and should really see her getting great stuff after this.

The thing that makes Like Crazy such a powerful film is that it’s one that shows love just how it is, it’s a film that’s really smart in that it knows how much love can hurt and how volatile an emotion it is, but it’s also hugely romantic in that it knows just how much power it has in all that vulnerability. That great understanding of the complex emotion it’s bringing forth to the screen makes for the simplest of stories to be immensely gripping, after all, these are just two young people falling madly in love with each other, but this film and these actors understand so much how complicated that emotion is, that the intimacy, the passion, the regret, the missing, it’s all right there for you to feel, and that’s the sort of trick every great film should strive to achieve.

It’s just an incredibly irresistible film, one that presents a first love, something that everyone has felt in their lives, but that doesn’t sugarcoat it, it gives a really honest and bittersweet feel to the story, and because it’s such a universal emotion we can all relate to it and it’s incredibly easy to feel for Anna and Jacob. An emotional investment from us thanks to what these actors bring to the roles that really sucks us into it and make us feel as though these are our two best friends we’re seeing in this situation, or maybe even as if it’s you and your significant other.

Because you can really connect to this story, you can see how Jacob, the shy college senior would fall for the lovely Anna, the lovely exchange student who writes poems, and you can feel the dread they feel as graduation grows closer, as they have to deal with the question of what they’ll do next.  The movie follows them for seven years, follows them as they can’t seem to let go of each other, he visits her in London, but he can’t stay, his career is back home, and even though she grows fond of Simon (Charlie Bewley) and he starts something up with Samantha (played by another one of the best young actresses, the incredible Jennifer Lawrence), but through it all, they’re only thinking of each other.

Even at a short ninety minutes this film never misses a beat, the way it’s shot, with a small hand-held digital camera, gives this one a fresh look, one that compliments just how real and alive these characters quickly become to us. Those little things, along with small details in their interactions that mean so much to us as viewers, make a situation we’ve seen time and time again feel really fresh and, perhaps even more astoundingly, make love feel like a new emotion to us while they are experiencing it. It’s hugely complicated then to see Anna having to leave, to see them realizing just as it becomes imminent that they’re going to be apart that their love is probably stronger than even they realize, and yet knowing that being together while being apart is no easy task.

Keep an eye out for Drake Doremus, people, the guy is insanely talented, he knows how to keep still, he knows how to say so much with a silent frame. But then again, all of those impeccable results aren’t just the product of his genius alone, a lot of it has to do with his actors, who you should keep an even keener eye on. How Mr. Yelchin and Ms. Jones improvised such raw and painfully honest dialogue is incredible, and yet it’s probably when they’re silent that they do the most amazing stuff. Mr. Yelchin is just perfect as the quiet Jacob, who has this sincerity in his looks that’s really touching. And Ms. Jones, well, she’s the best, the close-ups of her face say ten times more than what any kind of great speech could, this is an incredibly smart performance from her, a glowing star being born right in front of our eyes. I’m going to go ahead and give Like Crazy the sixth perfect grade of the year. It deserves it, it’s not often a film feels as honest and wondrous as this one.

Grade: A+

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