Like Crazy (2011)
In This Tale of Modern Love, a Visa Stands in the Way of Desire
Love takes a beating (though really it just gets roughed up some) in “Like Crazy,” Drake Doremus’s romance about young lovers struggling to get it — their relationship, emotions, sentences, time zones and paperwork — together. The likable Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play Jacob and Anna, two very un-crazy kids who, after meeting at their Los Angeles college, fall in like and then bed, love and then trouble when Anna, a British citizen, overstays her visa, as Jacob nods his approval. Later, when she tries to return to the United States, the meanies at immigration don’t let her back into the country. Tears, separations and texting ensue in this low-key slice of American indie-film realism.
Shot in hand-held digital, the movie opens abruptly with Anna, an aspiring writer, delivering a paper in a classroom, where she and Jacob trade looks. She leaves him a cute note on his car (“please don’t think I’m a nutcase”), and soon after a cafe conversation they’re confessing their mutual appreciation for Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” The two quickly become one during short, sketchlike scenes, some without synchronized sound, that are meant to suggest a deepening of feeling. They hold hands, walk on the beach, dine with her parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead). Afterward, again in blissful aloneness, Jacob and Anna fling themselves into each other’s arms, his open mouth reaching for hers as if gasping for oxygen, a moving if isolated moment of awkward, urgent desire.
That insistence fades in a movie that is itself largely a conventional, wan affair, despite its art-cinema flourishes, like scenes that start and end in medias res. This abruptness sometimes works (Mr. Doremus has an evident fondness for the French New Wave), but there are other times when it feels as if the editor, Jonathan Alberts, had come to the movie’s rescue by cutting in and out of scenes to create interest and tension. He may have had no choice because the actors improvised a portion of it, working from a 50-page outline that Mr. Doremus wrote with Ben York Jones. Mr. Yelchin and Ms. Jones don’t demonstrate here that they yet have the tools to fill in such blanks.
“Like Crazy” is more visually and narratively ambitious than Mr. Doremus’s previous film, the charmless mumblecore-esque “Douchebag” (about two antagonistic brothers), but it’s still thinly realized. Turned back at the airport when she tries to re-enter the United States, Anna ends up on the wrong side of the country’s immigration policies. That she and Jacob are, after Sept. 11, at all surprised by this turn of events doesn’t work in anyone’s favor. The overstayed visa is a narrative contrivance, a way to cook up conflict for the lovers. But it makes them seem grievously naïve (if you’re being charitable) or simply dumb (if you’re not). Mostly, though, it’s a labored device that works against Mr. Doremus’s sometimes persuasive groping for realism.
After Anna returns to Britain, the couple try to keep things going. Yet Jacob, for reasons that are never made satisfyingly clear, doesn’t visit often and rejects her suggestion that he try working in Britain, undermining the idea that theirs is a great passion. (He also turns down her parents’ offers of financial help.) Romeo and Juliet died for their love; Anna and Jacob don’t even Skype. Instead, they settle into their increasingly separate lives, burrowing into work even as they’re brought together either in person or through the parallel editing. They strengthen their bond and loosen it, pushing and pulling without making it bleed. She blogs for a magazine, he makes furniture, sometimes alongside a new distraction, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence). Life happens, not like crazy at all.
“Like Crazy” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Some adult language and discreet lovemaking.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Drake Doremus; written by Mr. Doremus and Ben York Jones; director of photography, John Guleserian; edited by Jonathan Alberts; music by Dustin O’Halloran; production design by Katie Byron; costumes by Mari Chisholm; produced by Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling; released by Paramount Vantage. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes.