In this film image released by Paramount Vantage, Anton Yelchin, left, and Felicity Jones are shown in a scene from "Like Crazy." (AP Photo/Paramount Vantage, Fred Hayes)
3 out of 4 stars
Lots of people (many of them critics) regularly gripe about how too many movies are just too far-fetched to be believable. Filmmakers can (and should) do this with sci-fi and fantasy flicks but with dramas and comedies, there needs to be a certain degree of realism or they too merely become fantasy.
A great many real life relationships don't end up nearly as happy and tidy as those in movies and that is the main reason why people go to see them. They want some positive escapism; something to temporarily distract them from the cold hard truth of life. So, what happens when a movie such as "Like Crazy" chooses to ignore practically every known expected cinematic device/cliche and shoots for unbridled realism?
The first thing you get is an honest film; one that doesn't pander, talk down or conform to audience expectations. The only thing "Like Crazy" has in common with other romantic dramas is that it has a beginning, middle and an end -- something the relationship it depicts does not. The best thing about this movie is that you never know what's going to happen next and for that reason alone it deserves high praise.
The first part is easily the most conventional and upbeat. L.A.-based college juniors Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) exchange knowing glances in the classroom and after she leaves a crush note on the windshield of his car, they're off and running.
They can't take their eyes or hands off each other and anyone watching them can understand why. With her winning smile, slight overbite, angelic features and flawless skin, Anna is girl-next-door near-perfect. Jacob is not your typical romantic lead but his affable demeanor, sharp wit, curly locks and gallant tendencies makes him irresistible to almost any woman.
With the start of the second half, writer/director Drake Doremus makes the first of two major yet completely avoidable plot gaffs from which the film never fully recovers. He inserts a twist that while original comes of as forced and contrived but does set up a new story wrinkle most of us have encountered at some point in our romantic lives: the long distance relationship.
This is also the point where Doremus starts slipping closer to reality by diminishing the appeal of the two leads. Like most people at the beginning of a relationship, Anna and Jacob strive to present themselves in the best light possible, but over time and through the closeness of company begin to allow their flaws -- however minor -- to surface. It's not as if either was putting on false airs at the beginning, they're just regular people and far from perfect -- just like the rest of us.
By the time the final act kicks in, both leads have done things that lessen their standing not only with each other but in the eyes of the audience as well and this is also the point where Doremus plops down that second narrative gaffe. Again highly avoidable, this last twist also feels desperate and overwhelmingly clunky.
While the particulars of his story could certainly use some polish, Doremus' visual prowess and non-verbal communication skills are immense. With the exception of one vital scene, "Like Crazy" isn't one of those overly fussy affairs where the lovers babble on incessantly while spilling their guts and endlessly yammering about their "feelings." Through superb camera placement, body language and the deserved trust he has in his leads, Doremus accomplishes far more with silence than any amount of dialogue ever could.
Like so many of the other films released this fall season, "Like Crazy" isn't something that provides enjoyment and entertainment but rather a movie you'll more respect, admire and -- most importantly -- relate to. Anyone who has ever been in love and had to fight to keep it will see something of themselves in Doremus' movie. It's not always pretty or joyful but neither is the real world. (Paramount Vantage)