As much as romantic comedies get criticized for being formulaic and uninspired, I would take a bad romantic comedy over a bad romantic drama any day. Director Drake Doremus follows up his Sundance hit Douchebag with the mumblecore drama Like Crazy is one of the most egregious offenders of the romantic drama genre because its characters are so self-absorbed that they fail to see any humor in their relationship, resulting in them coming across as detestably smug, rather than sympathetic or even likable.
Doremus’ mostly unscripted film is so subdued that it deceives the simile that makes up its title. If anything the title should be “Like Kinda.” The film attempts to examine a first love and challenge the audience to determine what sacrifices we are willing to make in the name of when relationships face adversity. However, the characters answer this question in such an uninteresting and underdeveloped way, that the movie fails in its purpose.
In the movie, Anna (Felicity Jones) becomes infatuated with one of her T.A.’s named Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and she begins leaving adoring poems on his car windshield. The two decide to meet up and immediately begin spending every moment together until after college graduation. Anna, a British national, must return to London before her Visa expires and she and Jacob decide to make the most of their time before she leaves. Too obsessed with the idea of sleeping in the same bed together (we never see more than sleeping), Anna decides to overstay her Visa and finally leaves at the end of the Summer.
Weeks later she is set to return to America to be with Jacob, but is stopped at the airport. A hold has been put on her passport and she is not allowed to enter the United States. Jacob makes frequent trips to be with her in England, but eventually they drift apart and begin relationships with other people – Anna with her neighbor, Simon (Charlie Bewley), and Jacob with his co-worker Sam (Jennifer Lawrence). The two remain off and on again for two years, but we are supposed to assume that their hearts will always lie with one another.
There are a few major issues that prevent us from ever feeling any sympathy for these characters. The first being their hilarious stupidity. Anna’s Visa expiring meant that she would have to return to England for around two months before she could come back. That seems simple enough, but the two characters are so narcissistic that they carelessly forget that the law applies to them. After all, this type of law only applies to real illegal immigrants, not cute white girls, right?
The other major issue, and this is perhaps the one that causes the ultimate downfall of the film, is that I never believed that Jacob and Anna were actually in love. Doremus gives us one or two very brief moments that show what we are accustomed to seeing in a romantic film, like a passionate kiss when they are alone for the first time in a while. Other than that they seemed to be bored with each other’s presence. Felicity Jones exhibits the characteristics of a young girl whose fallen deep in “like,” and she is definitely the more committed of the pair. Anton Yelchin apparently has beautiful girls lining up to be with him as we see with his later relationship with Sam. He never really explains why he simply won’t move to England, giving us the indication that there was never really something there for him.
I already mentioned how the main characters come across as nauseatingly narcissistic. Instead of offering a critique of the self-absorbed technology generation, Like Crazy worships their conceits. There is a scene later in the film where Anna’s boss at Magazine hires her to write a column because she is looking for a young voice. “I don’t feel very young,” replies Anna showing that not only is she selfish, but she is also not at all self-aware because everything we see about her up to this point is an example of youthful carelessness.
The on-again, off-again relationship between Jacob and Anna becomes tiring by the film’s third act and it’s not helped by Doremus’ repetitiveness. He attempts to stylistically demonstrate the passage of time with montages in a bed and later on an escalator, but it is far less creative than what we have seen from filmmakers like Marc Webb or Wes Anderson. Visually, the film looks like it was made by someone who has seen too many Jean-Luc Godard films, with jump cuts galore to make us aware of the filmmaking process. Yet the film lacked the wit and precision of Godard’s innumerable masterpieces.
The Simon and Sam characters are cruelly underdeveloped and are presented only as indulgences of the main characters. We feel even less about them than we do about our principles, despite the best efforts of the great Jennifer Lawrence. The only redeemable performances come from Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston who play Anna’s parents. They are the film’s only voice of reason and only source of humor, yet the fateless young lovers constantly ignore their good advice. Their brief time on screen and their unquestionable chemistry shows how distracted Doremus was with the wrong type of love story.
Bottom Line: Like Crazy is a derivative love story about two uninteresting characters who can’t get over themselves.