Like Crazy is a love story that clearly prides itself on reflecting an honest assessment of a contemporary relationship. It’s a romance — a trendy Sundance darling at that — that embraces emotional ambiguity and, perhaps inadvertently, the notion of “love the one you’re with,” because working to get what you want is really hard. It’s not exactly Casablanca, but times have changed.
The film, about the hardships of a long-distance affair, is deeply earnest and minimalist in style; the jittery camera reflects the uncertainty that flummoxes British Anna (Felicity Jones, The Tempest) and American Jacob (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek), college grads who enjoy gazing at each other and long walks on the beach and are cruelly separated by the evil forces of the U.S. Customs Services. The plot is slim and driven essentially by the characters’ dilemma of being kept apart. The problem is that character-driven stories require characters with discernible traits beyond “boy who makes furniture” and “girl who wants to be a writer but isn’t smart enough to realize overstaying your student visa is going to cause problems in the post-9/11 world.”
But Anna and Jacob fall into tender, if somewhat tepid, love as the movie opens — neither seems driven mad with passion, as the title suggests — and instead of returning to the U.K. as planned once she graduates, Anna decides to flout her visa, stay in Los Angeles with Jacob and only fly home for a week or so for a wedding of a character too unimportant to register later. When she tries to return to the States, she’s flagged by Customs and shipped back to London on the next plane.
The rest of the film is spent watching Anna and Jacob juggle their feelings, which are conveniently put aside every time a new bedmate appears on their respective sides of the pond. That both are selfish, cruel and callous to these likable stand-ins is never mentioned. Anna shags her neighbor Simon and eventually moves in with him. Jacob pops over to visit once or twice but at home hooks up with his besotted assistant (Jennifer Lawrence) whose name is virtually impossible to remember because she’s so bland. Lawrence is a terrific actress who was nominated for an Oscar for the chilling Winter’s Bone and slated to play one of the most fiery heroines ever in the upcoming Hunger Games. You have to work hard to shape her into barely a blip on the radar, but Like Crazy manages this feat: Lawrence displayed more personality covered in blue gills in X-Men: First Class.
Like Crazy isn’t a bad movie; there are a couple of nice touches, including a sweet, swift montage of shots of Jacob and Anna entwined and asleep in one of their brief times together. But if you’re making a movie that purports to be about real love, at the very least, you have to make the audience care whether the lovers work out their problems. To its credit, Like Crazy is not wholly starry-eyed on the issue of whether Anna and Jacob end up together, but director Drake Doremus has to make us care one way or the other, and we end up not interested enough to make a commitment.
Cast: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence.
Writer-director: Drake Doremus.
Producers: Jonathan Schwartz, Andrea Sperling.
A Paramount Vantage release. Running time: 90 minutes. Sexual content, strong language. Opens Friday Nov. 11 at area theaters.