Like Crazy (Doremus, 2011)

Link to a formal review at the end.

This is, by my count, the second straight-up romance I’ve watched in the last six months.  It’s better than the other one (The Notebook), has its moments that really shine, but doesn’t add up to much too special aside from likable, independent filmmaking.

Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) are college seniors in love.  She’s from the UK, he from the US.  She overstays her visa and can’t return to the country to see him.  Their relationship goes through a rocky period.

The odd thing about Like Crazy is that there are a lot of scenes that I like, yet it doesn’t all add up to anything better than those singular scenes.  The supporting cast is good.  A scene where Anna’s father Bernard (Oliver Muirhead) suggests that Anna and Jacob get married is hilariously uncomfortable, and a scene where Anna’s interim boyfriend Simon (Charlie Bewley) proposes to her in front of her parents, is not only uncomfortable, but verging on cringe-inducing.  Part of the problem is that the story is summed up over and over again within each of these scenes, so when viewed on their own, they feel fresh, but within the greater context feel repetitive.

Doremus’ camera is the indie-trademark handheld variety.  It bothers me here.  It just seems unnecessary.  The jump cuts I like, but the handheld camera, though never overly shaky, just feels rushed and lazy instead of reality-based.  It all adds up to an almost-hipster, but definitely hip mise-en-scene where no one remotely unattractive populates the cloistered world depicted.

This film gets me thinking: what do I want from a romantic film (aside from romance)?  The romances that I really admire generally hybrids.  Romantic comedies like Sabrina, Amelie, or Groundhog Day.  Romantic thrillers like Casablanca, or Notorious.  The closest thing that I can think of that is a romantic drama that I really like a lot is Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love.  Or maybe The Graduate (unless you find that funny).  But these films, though singular in their own right, spread their wings quite a bit, move around, investigate love from angles separate from simple infatuation with one person, and have an aesthetic that manages to be brisk and calculated (The Graduate) or ethereal and mysterious (A Short Film About Love).

So…maybe my complaint is sort of twofold: the genre of the romance doesn’t hold enough suspenseful/narrative weight to sustain itself for a full feature film, and many romances neglect their visuals, or try to overcompensate for the first point with hurried/unnecessary visuals.  Or maybe I’m just a cynic.

The thing about Like Crazy is that it made me smile a lot.  It’s far from a bad film.  It’s just that it doesn’t seem to challenge itself outside of the proportion of its budget to the finished product.  But really, how many people watch a film with a dollar figure in their head?


About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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