Paramount // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // March 1st, 2012
I want you -- I need you -- I miss you -- I love you
There's a big difference between a story in which two characters believe their romance is the center of the universe and a story in which the romance of two characters actually is the center of the universe. With the former, you get Romeo and Juliet. With the latter, you get Like Crazy.
Felicity Jones (Cemetery Junction) and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) star as Anna and Jacob, two college students who quickly fall in love. When Anna's student visa is up, she's not yet ready to walk away from their burgeoning relationship and overstays by several months. That presents a problem later on, as once she returns to England she is unable to re-enter the US. With thousands of miles separating them, will Jacob and Anna be able to make their relationship work?
I don't typically like to use the term "navel gazing" to describe art, but there are few more accurate expressions to succinctly explain what's wrong with Like Crazy. It's a movie that seems to mistake "focused" for "dull," offering up two characters with no discernible personalities except that they a) both have jobs, b) live far apart, and c) love each other...though exactly why is never even hinted at. They are in love because if they were not, there wouldn't be a movie.
The performances of Yelchin and Jones aren't really to blame; both are earnest and commit to their respective roles. They just haven't been given characters to play. The screenplay, co-written by director Drake Doremus, can't even come up with obstacles for them besides distance -- sure, that's a big one, but it's barely dealt with in any real way. The 2010 Drew Barrymore movie Going the Distance did a better job of addressing the hardships of long-distance romance, while still fleshing out its characters and treating them like real people with individual thoughts and feelings. Plus, it had the benefit of being a comedy, and Like Crazy is a movie that could have really used some lightening up. I understand the compulsion to treat young love as though it's a matter of life and death -- because it can certainly feel that way in the moment -- but Like Crazy refuses to have any perspective. We're supposed to take it all at face value.
None of these would be deal breakers if the movie weren't so damn repetitive and dull. Anna and Jacob cuddle; Anna and Jacob grow distant; Anna and Jacob fight; Anna and Jacob break up. Rinse and Repeat. They make one another miserable and, in doing so, the audience becomes pretty miserable, too -- or, at the very least, restless, because neither their problems nor their fights are particularly interesting.
Ultimately, the movie wants to be unabashedly romantic, but if you're going to make a case that a couple belongs together, you better make a case that the couple belongs together. Each time they fight or split, I found myself thinking "Well, that's for the best, now let's learn from this and move on." But they never learn, and they never quite move on. Making matters worse is that Like Crazy also features Jennifer Lawrence in a supporting role as one of Yelchin's co-workers with whom he has an on-again, off-again thing. She is given nothing to do -- like, literally nothing -- but she's so much more compelling a presence and interesting a performer that when she shows up, we just want to follow her. A note to the makers of Like Crazy: don't have the actress playing the "wrong" girl be the best thing about your movie. It undermines the point you're trying to make.
Paramount does a nice job with Like Crazy on DVD, offering a bright and natural-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Though it may lack some of the sharpness and clarity of its HD counterpart, there's really nothing to complain about as far as the standard def version goes. The Dolby 5.1 audio keeps all the dialogue clear in the center channel, while reserving most of the surround channels for music cues. It's certainly not the most dynamic of audio tracks, but it suits the movie just fine. The only bonus feature offered is a commentary track by co-writer/director Drake Doremus, editor Jonathan Alberts, and cinematographer John Guleserian. It's a mostly dry, technical talk, discussing how certain things were achieved and giving a general overview of the production. Hardly required listening.
I applaud the sincerity of Like Crazy, but sincerity alone cannot carry it. The movie seems to subscribe to the contemporary view of romance seen on reality TV and in the Twilight franchise -- that romance without drama isn't real or genuine. Yes, relationships can be difficult, but the good ones are wonderful, and worth fighting for. Like Crazy forgets that part.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Official Site