Monday, December 3, 2012

Felicity Jones Knocks Like Crazy Out Of The Park!

The Good: Felicity Jones!, Decent acting, Interesting conflict, Good sense of realism
The Bad: Often terrible direction, Frequently drawn-out problems
The Basics: Like Crazy starts amazing (albeit with crappy direction), before descending into too many problematically melodramatic aspects.

It takes a lot to sell a romance movie these days. Love might be an essential, powerful human emotion, but the sheer number of films that focus on romance leave so little to be explored. It’s a tough sell for me because so very many films do romance well and so many just lack the zest, the spark to make their romance story distinctive and original. Movies, at least, have the advantage of a longer timeframe than television so they can explore the realistic complexity of love over the ages, like in When Harry Met Sally (reviewed here!) or recently, on the dramatic side, One Day (reviewed here!).

It also takes a lot these days to sell me on a movie by the preview, but Like Crazy did that for me. So, I eagerly took in Like Crazy. I cannot think of a film in recent memory that started off so strong and then completely came unhinged in the middle. And, to be fair to the movie, Like Crazy goes for the relatively fertile ground of love across distance and time as opposed to starting with ridiculous contrivances. Unfortunately, as Like Crazy progresses, it develops from a realistic story of young love into an agonizingly distorted view of two people kept apart by government bureaucracy who stop communicating. My wife tells me that I’m unrealistic because I expect people in the relationship to keep communicating, but the real problem with Like Crazy is that it goes from two young, smart, engaging characters and makes them into absolute idiots to enable a series of conflicts that create torsion in the relationship.

Anna is in the United States on a student visa from England and she is attracted to Jacob from her class. Falling in love, they have an energetic early relationship. During that time, Jacob makes her a chair to replace the uncomfortable one in her apartment. When Anna’s student visa expires, the young lovers remain together for a week before Anna returns to the UK with the promise that she will return as soon as she can on a work visa. Unfortunately, on her next attempt to come into the U.S., she is not allowed in because of her visa issues the last time.

Forced to keep their distance, they begin to drift apart, though Jacob visits Anna once for a romantic visit. During that visit, Anna’s father suggests they get married. When they do, however, the immigration issue rears its ugly head and they are kept apart. Jacob, jealous of Anna’s past relationship with her neighbor Simon, leaves and resumes a relationship with his coworker, Sam. When the immigration issue is resolved and the relationship with Simon takes an awkward turn, Anna must decide what is important to her.

First off, it is worth noting that Like Crazy starts with a knock-‘em-out-of-the-park performance by Felicity Jones as Anna. Jones is electrifying as Anna. Her body language, the passion she emotes with her eyes and the nervous smile that graces her lips is astonishing. She is the first young actress in a long, long time to take my breath away with her talent. Seriously, she is that good and she makes the opening part of Like Crazy astonishingly good.

As for Anton Yelchin, he is not bad as Jacob, but it seems that Yelchin is too often fit into a comfortable niche for his range. In some ways, Yelchin is still playing Charlie Bartlett (reviewed here), though Jacob is a significantly less manic version of him. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Sam gives her no room to move and she is stiff and unremarkable in the role. However, she is also given very little to do; she is able to perform well enough to insinuate that her character knows she is not Jacob's first choice, but not enough to indicate why she puts up with that. Moreover, it is never clear what the attraction is between Jacob and Sam as both are captured most frequently at the stiff, awkward moments in their on-again, off-again relationship.

Add to that, Jones and Anton Yelchin have great on-screen chemistry. They play off one another exceptionally well and they make the relationship between Anna and Jacob seem entirely viable. In fact, they are so good together that when their characters stop talking with one another and telling each other the absolute truth, it seems like they have fallen into a completely movie with different characters. The scene with the first parting of Anna and Jacob, after their first night hanging out in her Los Angeles apartment is beautifully passionate. In fact, the relationship is a perfect embodiment of the excitement and passion of young love.

It is almost surprising that director (and co-writer) Drake Doremus gets such an amazing performance out of Felicity Jones and manages to capture it; so much of Like Crazy is defined by terribly cuts, horrible lighting and camera positions that inhibit the viewer’s understanding of what is going on in a scene. To wit, the moment Anna is first seen with Simon in her kitchen, it comes immediately after a scene where she was with Jacob there, fighting. It is unclear if she is with Jacob still and he has cut his hair or someone new because the camera is so far back! It’s a pretty sad statement on someone’s work when their montage has more fluidity in its cuts and transitions than the majority of the movie!

On DVD, Like Crazy appears without any bonus features, save a few previews for other films, most of which were better.

Like Crazy slowly becomes increasingly aggravating, to the point of being almost unwatchable and ultimately, what knocked it into the lower ranges of “average” for me was that the utterly unsatisfying resolution left me feeling completely cheated. After the investment of time and emotional energy, to have such a mundane ending – as I told my wife, I can live without a happy ending; I just want the characters to TALK TO ONE ANOTHER! – robbed me of most of the enjoyment of the rest of the film.

For other works with Jennifer Lawrence, check out my reviews of:
Silver Linings Playbook
The Hunger Games
X-Men: First Class


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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