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Distance Lends Disenchantment

Like Crazy (2011)

Fred Hayes/Paramount Vantage

“Like Crazy” is the story of an attachment, but without the glue. It is meant to be a romance between British journalist Anna (Felicity Jones) and American furniture maker Jacob (Anton Yelchin), who meet cute as students in Los Angeles and rapidly fall in love. Drake Doremus’s direction styles the film in a series of brief vignettes, skipping forward like a highlight reel, with the unfortunate result that we never get under Anna’s or Jacob’s skin. After a problem with American border control, they text; they call; sometimes they even meet in her cramped London apartment. But beyond the scenes of their initial attraction, their relationship is oddly hollow.

Ms. Jones and Mr. Yelchin are not strong enough actors to furnish their criminally underwritten characters with interior worlds of their own. Apart from Anna, we only really see Jacob interacting with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence, having a rest from superhero roles, but who should know better than to iron someone else’s jeans). Although she is forever leaving rooms in tears due to Jacob’s behavior, her character raises many more questions than the movie answers. Not least, how are characters this thinly-drawn meant to hold our interest?

What “Like Crazy” really is about is Anna and Jacob’s sense of entitlement. They believe they are entitled to a relationship with each other without working at it. They believe Anna should be able to ignore the rules of her visa without consequence. They believe they can have other relationships without emotional damage to anyone. And why does the audience come to believe Anna and Jacob feel so entitled? Because Mr. Doremus’s direction and the script — which he co-wrote with Ben York Jones — show us nothing else about them. Cinematographer John Guleserian even filmed them to emphasize their alienation from each other; and Anna’s and Jacob’s faces are rarely shown together in a shot — some romance.

At least Anna has her parents. And at least the audience has Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead as Anna’s parents, who here show the kids how it’s done. The movie slowly becomes a master class by them to demonstrate how great acting can rise above banal dialogue and paltry screen time to create real, vibrant characters. Take the disastrous dinner party near the end, where Ms. Kingston and Mr. Muirhead use little more than glances to show us not only how they feel at that moment in time, but also the entire history of their family. If Mr. Yelchin and Ms. Jones had been equally able to surpass the challenge of the script, they could have turned “Like Crazy” into a remarkable romance. As it is, long before the end, they wear out our interest.


Opens on Oct. 28 in the United States and on Feb. 3, 2012 in Britain.

Directed by Drake Doremus; written by Mr. Doremus and Ben York Jones; director of photography, John Guleserian; edited by Jonathan Alberts; music by Dustin O’Halloran; production design by Katie Byron; costumes by Mari Chisholm; produced by Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling; released by Paramount Vantage. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. 

WITH: Anton Yelchin (Jacob), Felicity Jones (Anna), Jennifer Lawrence (Sam), Charlie Bewley (Simon), Oliver Muirhead (Bernard) and Alex Kingston (Jackie).


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