You'd think Hollywood would have an easy time showing people fall in love by now. The industry has been cranking out romantic stories for decades, and many screen couples have ended up together after pretending to be in love for our amusement.
Yet "Like Crazy" is that rare beast, a movie which nails those first, fizzy moments of attraction with such grace that it's a mystery more films can't nail these elemental bonds.
"Like Crazy" dazzles with its boy-meets-girl setup, but the story stumbles when the couple hits one roadblock atop another. Director/co-writer Drake Doremus ("Spooner," "Moonpie") traces the ugly truth about modern romance but gives too little attention to his audience. We want to root for the couple in question to make it to the final reel still mad for one another, but the narrative keeps us from falling for them.
Jacob and Anna (Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones) meet at an L.A. university, and after one never-ending date become inseparable. He's a fledgling furniture maker, and she's a Brit on a student visa trying to navigate a collapsing journalism job market.
Anna decides to ignore her visa deadline to spend the summer with Jacob, a rash decision that complicates their future plans.
The visa subplot nudges the narrative along, but it doesn't give us a tangible interest in the couple's fate. Nor do the separate relationships they strike up during their break-ups, including a woefully malnourished role for "Winter's Bone" standout Jennifer Lawrence, pique our interest.
Jones sparkles like an ingenue about to be wasted in an over-produced rom-com, so let's enjoy her vivacious turn as Anna while we can. Yelchin, an in-demand young actor best known as Chekov in the "Star Trek" reboot, isn't as warm a screen presence. What actor could equal Jones' ability to radiate bruised affection? Yelchin does convey the torment of a young man unable to sort through all the emotions that come with love.
The film shrewdly dials back the dialogue during the couple's more tender embraces. Both Jones and Yelchin tell us reams about their character's inner feelings without uttering a sound.
"Like Crazy" avoids the tics of too many romantic features, from the garrulous best friend to the crazy coincidences meant to spark a new level of drama. The final 20 minutes will feel alien to those expecting cookie-cutter resolutions, and bravo to all for making "Like Crazy" wrap on a fuzzy yet achingly familiar note.
The DVD includes commentary by Doremus, editor Jonathan Alberts and cinematographer John Guleserian.