A first-love story that's easy to love
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Nov 04, 2011
The exhilaration of first love and the pain of its denouement burst forth with aching tenderness in "Like Crazy," Drake Doremus's millennial-generation "Love Story," which took top honors at Sundance earlier this year.
In fact, that festival imprimatur signals what in other hands could devolve into twee sentimentality, arty indie-film flourishes and grating solipsism. But Doremus - with a huge assist from lead players Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin - successfully skirts those pitfalls to create a serious, deeply felt romance for an audience Hollywood most often bombards with raunchy sex comedies and video-game adaptations.
Jones and Yelchin play Anna and Jacob, who meet when they're college students and fall in love after Anna boldly leaves a note on Jacob's windshield. "Like Crazy" then sends viewers along for the ecstatic ride as Anna and Jacob discover that they're soul mates, with Doremus telling the story, not as a he-said, she-said narrative but as a collection of vagrant moments of connection and intimacy. Yelchin and Jones reportedly improvised their dialogue from an outline Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones supplied them before filming, which surely accounts for "Like Crazy's" atmosphere of unbridled passion, pain and emotional push-and-pull caught on the fly. (In many ways, this is the movie "One Day" wanted to be but wasn't: a spirited, compassionate portrait of headstrong passion and wistful near misses.)
If "Like Crazy" was filmed unconventionally, the filmmakers still obey the first law of movie romance, which is that the couple must encounter some insurmountable obstacle. And although the little problems of these two young people may seem tantamount to a hill of beans when sized up to comparable situations faced by older and less telegenic people nowadays, the resulting feelings of despair and excruciating longing are no less authentic.
The fact that viewers can agonize right along with the two protagonists can be chalked up to exquisite performances from Yelchin - probably best known for his performance on the short-lived cable series "Huff" - and Jones, a radiant British actress who joins Brit Marling and Elizabeth Olsen as one of this year's most promising breakout performers.
Like "Blue Valentine" last year, "Like Crazy" gives filmgoers an over-the-shoulder view of a relationship at just about every stage of its morphology, conveying the vicarious pleasure and pain of love and separation through characters eminently worth rooting for, even at their most self-absorbed and naive. Doremus never indulges those youthful flaws; he just observes them with insight and forgiveness.
After all, "Like Crazy" seems to say, haven't we all been there? Didn't it hurt? And wasn't it grand?