March 19, 2012

DVD Review: Like Crazy

When it comes to cinematic romance, it seems we are relegated to either insipid studio created romcoms that offer little in terms of genuine emotion, or Nicholas Sparks sap-fests. It's rare that one comes along that actually feels genuine and has characters whose emotion rings true. An example of one that got it right is (500) Days of Summer (a favorite of mine); now we have Like Crazy, and it is a good candidate to join the ranks of successful movie romances.

Like Crazy is a good movie and features an involving relationship at its core. The thing is, while watching the story unfold, I did not immediately believe its reality. It seemed to be full of cinematic contrivances used get the characters where they needed to be rather than allowing a natural progression of their characters. It was like my ability to suspend disbelief failed, keeping me at arm's length and expecting another unbelievable cinematic romance.

I think my initial problems stem from the fact I have never experienced anything similar. Fortunately, my life is not a barometer for cinematic realism. Realistic movies would be really boring and never actually feel realistic if they used my life as a measuring stick. The idea of rating a movie romance against your own life points to why romantic films are so hard to make. Unlike a genre like horror or science fiction, romantic movies work on emotions that hit closer to home and require a higher degree of believability. Like Crazy successfully worked on my defenses, eventually wearing them down and allowing me to see the reality that was right in front of me.

Like Crazy tells the story of Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), college seniors. Jacob wants to design furniture and Anna, a London native, wants to be a writer. One day, after spotting him in class, she leaves a note on his car. He reads it and calls her. They meet, date, and fall for each other, hard.

It doesn't take long before problems begin. The problems begin when Anna overstays her student visa. She does eventually go home, but when she returns to the States, she learns the violation of her student visa has caused her to be banned from United States. This puts a big damper on their relationship as their love finds an ocean between them. As you know, long distance relationships are not easy, it takes more than love and even then there are limits to what people will do. This distance tests their ability to deal with each other and the strength of their relationship.

As their time apart grows longer, other people enter their lives, but they always seem to find their way back to each other. The bond they share is strong, but the issues of separation and distance are tough and at times appear insurmountable. The fact they essentially have to pause and restart the relationship so often has taken a toll. Still, it shows just how much love is there between them as they keep trying to make it work. However, it also shows that much more is necessary to sustain a relationship than just love.

The story develops in a fashion that stacks the odds against them. They are faced with real situations and they struggle to try and get past them. There are so many obstacles in their way that it seems they are doomed, a tragic pair of lovers destined to fall short. While romance is the primary focus, it is only one piece of the puzzle. You see, we see their obvious love for each other, but we also see the obstacles in their way and the toll they take on that love. It leads to a conclusion that may not be ideal, but it may also be the only it can possible go. This shows that everything is not going to be all right, that relationships can be messy, and sometimes all we can do is pick the pieces and move forward.

Like Crazy is very good film. It has a strong center that feels genuine and that goes a long way towards making it work. Yelchin and Jones have good chemistry and I believed in their happiness, their sadness, their anger. You can see it in their body language as they react to each other and the situation. It is a testament to their ability to breathe life into these characters.

I learned 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. Improvising emotion cannot be an easy thing to do but they are able to do it and make me care about them and the outcome. It is a realistic romance with an ambiguous outcome.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it looks pretty good. The colors are a bit washed out and not terribly vibrant, but the detail remains. The look of the film has a realistic, pseudo-documentary feel to it with the camera movements and the overall look of the film. It is certainly not a high definition transfer, but it is not a bad one at all. Some of the darker scenes get a little muddy, but when the light is there, the details come out. It is also interesting to note that the movie was shot on a DSLR camera, the Canon 7D. I find that to be very impressive.

The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It is not the liveliest of tracks as this is heavily dialogue driven. There is very little use of the surrounds, as would be expected as it is a very quiet film. There are a couple of scenes in bars and clubs where the surrounds kick in, but they are the exception.

Extras. The lone extra is a commentary track with director Drake Doremus, editor Jonathan Alberts, and cinematographer John Guleserian. It is a pretty good track covering many aspects of the films development and production. There is also a descriptive audio track for the blind.

Bottomline. 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.

Article first published as DVD Review: Like Crazy on Blogcritics.

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