This weekend I headed over to one of the independent theaters in town and saw the film “Like Crazy”. I have been watching for this film to hit theaters since this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I attended this year but it wasn’t showing in the few days I was there. It was definitely on my list of films to see since it had created early buzz and ended up winning the festival’s Grand Jury prize. Starring up-and-comers Felicia Jones,who won the prestigious special Jury prize for outstanding acting for this her first lead role, as Anna and Anton Yelchin as Jacob, two college students who fall in love over the course of their senior year of college. She’s a Brit studying aboard and he’s an American loner; two dreamers who seem to move each other through their own artistic expressions. They soon face the hard reality that she has to return to the UK after graduation, but faced with the idea of leaving him, she stays for the summer, violating her student visa and is soon deported. The trailer plays like a sweet, conventional love story; I was too fooled by the beauty and sentimentality of it. But listen to what she recites throughout the trailer: “I thought I understood it but I didn’t, not really. I knew the smudgeness of it, the eagerness of it, the idea of it. You and me.” There is definitely a layered story here, delving into the questions of what you would risk and who would you hurt for that first love. And just how REAL is it. This idea alone is enough to sustain the entire running time of this film. My Grade: B+
SPOILERS: We first meet Anna and Jacob in a classroom of their Los Angeles-based school. Anna is reading an assignment out loud, voicing her analysis and criticism of many things including people’s obsession with personal space in the form of My Space. Jacob, being the very dreamer that he is, is too busy stretching a new design for a chair to hear her words. Something peaks his interest, however, and their eyes meet. I think this was a great opening scene in that the director creates a world for the two of them apart from everyone else. We as onlookers get to witness this first connection by first meaningful glance, while we hear her words of opening one’s self up to the world. From then our we are invited into the courtship, from Anna making the first move by writing him a sweet yet funny love letter, their first night together sharing their hopes for the future. She reads poems to him she has never shared with anyone. He finally creates the chair he sketches over and over for her with the inscription “Like Crazy” carved into the bottom, his first piece ever he tells her. He meets her parents who open their lives to him, a guy who doesn’t seem close to his one remaining parent that we never see and is hardly mentioned. We see all the great moments of their love through their final year of school. It is not until the outside world intervenes in their lives that we see their world crumble.
It is always known that Anna would have to leave the country following graduation since her student visa will expire. Though faced with the possibility of being without Jacob for even one summer, Anna makes the decision to violate her visa and stay. Then follows a cool sequence of them squall out in bed in different positions to show the passing of the days and the closeness that remains between them. When Anna leaves at the end of the summer to attend a wedding in the UK and tries to return as a tourist, she is denied entrance into the US and is deported. When then follow this couple through years of missed phones calls, time zone differences, breakups, other relationships, jealousy, reunions, and secrets. Each try to move on to different people at different times when the distance proves to be too much - Jacob with his coworker Samantha (played by Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence) and Anna with her neighbor Simon. But they are always pulled back together, even getting married in order to obtain a marriage visa, only to have it still denied because of the previous violation. Jacob however doesn’t seem to entirely fit in her world and Anna can’t make it into his.
Anna is finally granted permission to enter the country and they can be together. However, by the end of the film, in the last scene in the shower that flashes back to the night it all began, I believe we are being shown the great divide between where they started and where they ended up. Two much has occurred to taint the pureness of their love, too many secrets, too much time leading separate lives.
The regular movie watcher may be turned off by the jumps in time in the story or the often slow pace of the film but I think it at time adequately convey the disjointed nature of their relationship. Though I went into the film wanting to be in love with this couple that are in love, I wasn’t. Not to say that I didn’t think that was a beautiful tale of young love. Or that I was not drawn in at all the great little moments that pulled them together. I was especially impressed to learn that the majority of the film was improvisation.
I think it was interesting in that we never saw Anna and Jacob have sex on screen throughout their entire relationship but yet we did when they were each with other people, which I think may have been a creative decision to convey the innocence of their love. This love is real, yes, but not a fully realized, grownup love. There was an interesting point in the film when Anna’s mom notices that her new boyfriend Simon was the first person to get Anna to exercise, to start drinking so much, to serious focus on taking care of her health. When they are with other people they seem to mature. When they are back together, they are pulled into this private bubble that is tethered to the carefree past, but real life intervenes. This film, to me, is about a couple that can’t seem to let go because of this moment in time that changed that lives forever. What are your thoughts?