November 13, 2011

Movie Review: Like Crazy

Oh, romantic comedies, why do you torment us so? This genre is one of those where it seems to be nearly impossible to deliver something genuinely good. You can extend this to romantic films in general. When it comes to cinematic romance, it seems we are relegated to either insipid studio backed romcoms that offer little to nothing in terms of genuine emotion, or Nicholas Sparks sap-fests. It is rare that one comes along that has something genuine to say. A couple of years ago we got (500) Days of Summer, which quickly became a personal favorite. Now we have Like Crazy, and it is good.

I was not initially sure I was going to like it. The trailer sure presented an interesting case with an appealing cast, but when it started, my hopes dimmed a touch, but only briefly. The thing of it is, while I was watching some of the events unfold, I did not immediately believe them, I looked at them as cinematic contrivances to get out characters where they needed to be rather than allowing the story to develop naturally. Then I realized how wrong I was.

Why was I seeing this tale as being contrived? The only answer I had for myself was that it was because I had never experienced anything similar. Man, am I stupid. If my life was a barometer for cinematic realism, well, realistic movies would really boring, or never actually feel realistic. I am happy to have recognized the folly of these initial thoughts and am glad I got over them!

This movie focuses on Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones). They are college seniors in LA, he wants to be a furniture designer, and she is a journalism exchange student from London. One day she leaves a note on his car. He reads it and calls her. They meet, date, and fall for each other. They fall hard.

Problems begin when her school visa is about to expire and she chooses to stay beyond that date. This proves to be disastrous as the violation gets her banned from entering the United States. This puts a big damper on their relationship as they are stuck with an ocean and a country between them. Long distance relationships are not easy. It takes more than love, and there are limits to what people can do, are willing to do, and are able to do. It seems like this distance is testing all aspects.

The time gets longer, other people enter the picture, but they always seem to find their way back to each other. The bond is strong, but the issues that, admittedly were created by them, are tough and at times appear insurmountable.

The story develops in ways that allow the odds to stack against them, and not merely in a movie conflict sort of way. These are real situations and they have to try and get past them, if they can.

Like Crazy is very good film. It has a strong center that feels genuine and that goes a long way towards making a movie of this sort work. Yelchin and Jones have good chemistry and believed their happiness, their sadness, their anger. You can see it in their body language, when things are off, it is as plain as day.

I have come to learn that a lot of the dialogue was improvised. They were given the outline of what needed to happen and the actors took it from there. This increases my esteem for the film as well as the cast. Improvising emotion cannot be an easy thing to do. While this may not be my favorite example of the genre, it is certainly one of the better ones I have seen in some time. It is a realistic romance with an ambiguous outcome. Sure, the fairytale types have their place, but not all the time.

Like Crazy is one not to be missed. It shows a romance as it blooms and lives and turns into life and how life has a way of doing things to it, testing its convictions and strength. What comes out the other side is not always the same thing that it started out to be.

Highly Recommended.

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Dan O. said...

The story may have its fair share of schmaltz and cheesiness, but the direction and performances from the cast make this a believable and painful story about young love. It’s also refreshing to see a film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Nice review. Check out mine once you get the chance.

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