If you take away the wonderful sweetness of 2009’s “500 Days of Summer,” you would be left with “Like Crazy.” Both films explore young love in its idealistic state, but “Summer” does it with a light airiness while the latter employs cold calculation. “Like Crazy” is a well-made film with two strong leads that ultimately fails to appreciate the relationship at its core.
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The courtship between the two main characters, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), begins when Anna leaves a long note on Jacob’s car after a college class. The details of the letter are never revealed but it ends with the line, “Please don’t think I’m a nutcase.” Jacob laughs and calls her later and their relationship begins.
It’s then that the movie makes one of its best choices. Instead of a montage showing the couple dating and learning about each other with a 90s pop song, “Like Crazy” chooses instrumental music to showcase the blossoming relationship. Their love isn’t the cutesy “win a prize bear to take home at a carnival” type of love. It’s the wonderful but tricky love of real life.
After she graduates, Anna is scheduled to be sent back to England. At the last minute, she decides to overstay her visa and spend the summer living with Jacob in the United States. The two eventually separate, and Anna returns to England for a short time. When she returns to the U.S., she runs into a problem at customs for her earlier indiscretion. From there, the couple faces numerous issues as the distance between them hangs over their heads and each gets involved with another person (played respectively by Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley.)
The story’s success hinges on the main romance between the two leads, but it never invests in them enough to earn a payoff. The scenes of the couple getting together are too quick and forgettable to leave a lasting impression. Yes, there are the cute little moments that define the relationship such as the scene where Jacob buys Anna a new writing chair, but such scenes are too few to earn the viewer’s sympathy.
Director Drake Doremus, who co-wrote the script with Ben York Jones, knows how to set the scene and the atmosphere, though. There are subtle moments where no words are spoken but the emotions are clearly understood. A break-up scene, for instance, shows two characters in different states of repose as their relationship slowly falls apart. It’s that kind of story-telling that shows Doremus’ raw potential.
“It’s hard to keep stopping and starting,” Anna says at one point regarding her stormy relationship with Jacob. Such a feeling is well-understood in a story that carries with it hints of last year’s anti-romance “Blue Valentine.” However, the relationship at the heart of the story is never built well enough to merit an audience’s engagement. Yelchin and Jones may be good actors, and Jones may be making a wonderful impression with viewers, but sometimes solid acting and atmosphere, like love itself, aren’t enough.