(No longer in theaters)
Oct 28, 2011
Men have died … and worms have eaten them, but not for love,” says Shakespeare’s Rosalind to her adored Orlando, and it might be true—but try telling someone in the fetal position, weeping over the loss of a lover, thinking only of a future as worm food. In Like Crazy, Drake Doremus gives you a dangerously enflamed dose of first love, from infatuation to intoxication to addiction to withdrawal and re-addiction. The movie is painful to watch even though it’s not especially deep or psychological—as painful as seeing the radiantly happy face of a child in that fraction of a second between his or her tripping and connecting with a hard object, when there’s nothing you can do except brace for the cruel end of innocence.
The boy, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), is American; the girl, Anna (Felicity Jones), English. They’re in the same media-studies college class, in L.A. She leaves a note for him under his windshield. (“Please don’t think I’m a nutcase …”) He calls. (“Graceland? That’s my favorite album!”) She has big eyes and big English teeth that give her an appealing forwardness and is very pretty. He has curly hair and is almost as pretty. God, they’re young—so tender, so giddily undefended, that it hurts just to look at them. The handheld camera gets all giddy, too. It moves in close, scanning one upturned face and then the other. Kiss already! The last love story this infectious, Richard Linklater’sBefore Sunrise, evoked the mounting excitement of an all-night baring-of-souls bull session, but Like Crazy happens at a pre-verbal level. At one point, snapshots of the sleeping/smooching/frolicking couple take the place of scenes, but you don’t miss the dialogue. Those pictures feel as if they’re being spit out of our collective photo-booth unconscious.
Doremus’s choice of impediments is shrewd: not absurdly easy to overcome, as in most rom-coms, but not soaked in fatalism, as in doomed-lover psychodramas like Blue Valentine. Jacob and Anna can’t tear themselves away from each other, so she overstays her visa and can’t get back into the country. His quirky-furniture-design business wouldn’t fit as snugly into a London milieu as it does in Venice Beach. She makes waves writing for a London magazine. There are other lovers in the picture—beautiful, devoted would-be mates like Jacob’s assistant, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), and Anna’s neighbor, Simon (Charlie Bewley). Would marrying Jacob make it easier for the couple to get back into the groove—as well as into the U.S.—or would it be too much commitment too fast? Have they even gotten past the stage of projecting their true-love fantasies onto each other? I don’t think they know. I don’t think Doremus knows. That’s what makes the movie so intriguing—and Jacob’s LIKE CRAZY inscription on the bottom of a chair, as in “I love you like …,” so unnervingly prophetic.
Like Crazy has a lively syntax and could, in an ungrateful mood, be tagged as slick. But Doremus gets the tempos right. The movie jumps when it needs to and slows when it must. Jones and Yelchin are madly attractive without ever seeming like glamorous movie stars. Did I mention how young they look? His facial hair is like a 14-year-old’s first sad beard, while she’s a little girl playing at being a sophisticate. Neither can bear the weight of their first love—but then, who can? Like Crazy’s perspective is wonderfully sane.