Movie Review: Like Crazy
By Joshua Pasch
December 5, 2011
Failed relationships are fairly universal, and frankly, the non-self-destructive amongst us make a concerted effort to avoid them. Even the twee entries into the anti-romance sub-genre (e.g., 500 Days of Summer) provide a certain challenge for that very reason. We project ourselves onto these characters and their conflicts, and sometimes, when they hit home, it can feel all too real. Other times, it becomes cathartic. For me, Like Crazy was a little bit of both.
Like Crazy is the story of two young lovers who meet while in college in Los Angeles. Jacob, a quiet and softly funny American boy, is the TA for an English class where he meets Anna, a lovely and eloquent British girl. And they are just a boy and girl – prone to the rash decisions of 20-something college kids. So it’s rather believable when Anna impulsively decides to overstay her visa for a summer past their graduation. This decision ultimately becomes a plot device for keeping the couple apart, as Jacob’s business is in Los Angeles, and Anna has US immigration law to contend with before being allowed back stateside. As they struggle towards a permanent reunion, we watch as their love matures, and in many ways fades. The movie raises questions of commitment and true love – but it does so in the least obvious or preachy of ways.
Again, the themes of Like Crazy aren’t revolutionary. Think of it as 500 Days of Summer’s grown up sibling (that isn’t a slight, by the way). Like Crazy doesn’t care if it makes you cry – it doesn’t want to give you a fantastical musical number to help lighten the mood. There is no young sister to provide witty commentary on Jacob’s love life strife. It might be a movie about kids, but this is an adult movie. Like Crazy is so damn sincere, it’s searing. Minutes at a time stretch along with hardly any dialogue, allowing you to easily project yourself and your romantic past onto the characters you’re watching. By the end of it all, you’ll swear that writer/director Drake Doremus based this movie on your life. (Of course, that isn’t true – he based it on his own.)
The film is a brisk 90-minute affair, and somehow years pass in that amount of time without anything feeling rushed. No scene is extraneous; the pacing is purposeful, while still feeling relaxed. There is a simple scene when Jacob and Anna read out on a balcony on Catalina Island. Almost nothing is said, but it’s hardly a wasted moment – it’s saying a hundred different things about what they’re feeling and how they’ve changed.
Part of the movie’s charm, and part of why we can invest in it so deeply, is the subtleness of Jacob’s and Anna’s shared moments. Other than a few blips of romantic tropes at the start of their romance, (e.g., Jacob and Anna on the beach, Jacob and Anna riding bumper cars), Doremus stays away from the clichés of other romance films. We don’t watch them make love, we don’t watch them share a first kiss, we don’t even get to hear the contents of the love letter that Anna writes to Jacob to kick-start their romance. Instead, we watch them dance, alone in a hotel room. We watch them share their fears with one another while whispering under the covers. We watch Jacob read her letter silently, and we watch the grin widen on his face. In these moments, we know their intimacies, we know their fears, and we know they’re smitten. Rarely has young love ever been this genuine on screen.