REVIEW: ‘Like Crazy’ (2011)

Grade: D+

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.

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  • wow you really didn’t liked it …. i am going to watch in a day or two. i was really excited to see it but not now after i read ur review !!!!

  • Jose

    Oh well, I’m still excited about watching it. I’ll just not get my hopes to high though.

  • Eric M

    I’m set to see the film on Friday, so I could be way off-base with these comments, but here it goes….

    It sounds like my expectations for the film were the same as yours – a story about two people who seem to be meant for each other, despite the circumstances that keep them apart. Just from reading your review, it sounds like the story of a more realistic sort. You can’t tell me that young love isn’t littered with couples who are together for, well… the sake of being together.

    After reading everything you had to say, it sounds clear that the director wasn’t attempting to make an Eternal Sunshine, where two people are together because of fate. Perhaps you’re closer to middle-age than your profile would indicate, Alex, but let’s not forget how “romantic” and “selfless” college students are.

    All that said without having seen the movie, so I’ll apologize now for how off-base I could be! Interesting take on a movie I’ve been anticipating, and it’ll be interesting to see what I take from the movie after hearing how you interpreted it.

    • My birth certificate says I’m 25, but I’m really a 45-year old at heart. I just couldn’t get over how into themselves these characters were. I really have no interest in watching an underdeveloped love story between a douchebag and a pseudo-intellectual.

      I’m interested in hearing your thoughts after you see it.

  • The story may have its fair share of schmaltz and cheesiness, but the direction and performances from the cast make this a believable and painful story about young love. It’s also refreshing to see a film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Nice review. Check out mine once you get the chance.

  • Alex I love your review – and I do connect with much of it. However I wouldn’t have ranked LIKE CRAZY so low. I did enjoy the central performances (although I think Jennifer Lawrence almost walks away with the movie). I did find it a bit trite, but I think it should linger somwhere in the high C range. It certainly doesn’t deserve the awards buzz I am hearing – but with a different script – and the same leads – this could have been just wonderful!

    • Just saw this movie – and I do agree that there are some ridiculous plot points. Why was it so hard for Anna to apply for another visa (and why was it hard to get that ban lifted) and why couldn’t Jacob just have moved to London?

      But I still enjoyed the performances here, particularly the scene where they were fighting in Anna’s apartment. The two brought so much life into their characters, its a shame the story didnt deliver.

    • i agree with you guys and i would give it a C+ :) some plot points were ridiculous but i liked the performances. it was a nice movie to watch but it did disappointed me because i was expecting a little too much out of it.

  • Eric M

    After re-reading the review and what everyone else had to say (oh yeah, actually watching the movie helped form an opinion based on something more than my simple anticipation of seeing the thing), I have to ask….

    Did everyone see the same movie I did?

    Granted I had the fore-knowledge of what to expect from reading a couple reviews, but I feel like everyone is missing – or rather ignoring – what the movie is about. Alex said, “the other major issue […] is that I never believed that Jacob and Anna were actually in love”. Is that what we’re ever supposed to believe? Pardon me for a minor of spoiler, but unless you left the theater before the final L.A. scenes, I don’t think the film is trying to convince anyone of that with any certainty.

    I can’t blame anyone for hating the two leads, as both are liars, selfish, and immature. Nor can I hate the haters of how idiotic it was to over-stay the visa to begin with. The movie is this year’s Blue Valentine, with a plot that is both optimistically-hopeless and hopelessly-optimistic. If any of you nay-sayers watch this again, count the number of times that Anna and Jacob show signs of being star-crossed lovers. It is clever how we are led to assume the relationship had a lot of sweetness to it, simply because the movie can be found in your romantic-drama aisle.

    Next time a movie comes out, I expect the review to agree with my personal tastes and preferences. Never again will I lose sleep trying to type up a rebuttal for something as subjective as film criticism.

    • It wasn’t simply the fact that we didn’t believe that they were in love it was that they didn’t seem to have any chemistry whatsoever. I feel like the idea could have worked that we never actually see them truly in love, but not if the characters are so very uninteresting.

      The film does try to present itself as honest, which is where I think it went wrong the most. I didn’t believe it for a second.

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