originally published in November 2011
American boy and English girl fall in love in LA. Girl overstays US study VISA. Girl goes home to jolly England for wedding. Girl tries to get back into America but is denied entry by angry customs lady. Girl goes back to England to mope. Boy doesn’t want to leave his fledgling L.A. chair design company. Girl still can’t get into L.A.. Girl gets new boyfriend. Boy gets new girlfriend. Boy unhappy. Girl unhappy. Boy and girl to re-unite?
On paper, this doesn’t really sound all that promising does it?
Despite the Sundance positivity, I remember seeing the trailer months ago and feeling a tiny little bit of sick in my mouth. I’m a sucker for a good romantic yarn, but only if it shows things in a realistic way recalling the up and downs (sorry every-Kate-Hudson-movie-from-the-last-eleven-years) of a relationship. If the duo find themselves having to fight big old obstacles, even better.
The first thirty minutes of Like Crazy really zip by, it’s unlikely there’ll be anything more beautiful or intimate on screens this year than Jacob (Anton Yelchin – Star Trek and Terminator 4) and Anna (Felicity Jones – Cemetery Junction and The Tempest) lying under the sheets and whispering sweet nothings to each other. The director, Drake Doremus, a man who is depressingly just eighteen months older than me, is a master at showing the breathless early days of a relationship where it’s all about sunshine, bumper cars and boat rides.
It’s when they’re ripped apart by the Atlantic Ocean, and time passes by, forcing (allowing?) them to get with other people that things get interesting. Jacob seems like he could make a go of it with his new belle – an under-utilised Jennifer Lawrence – but Anna’s relationship with her neighbour is very much a one-way affair, when things get serious it’s clear she was really only looking for someone to keep the bed warm. And it’s this idea which runs through the film. Anna will do anything to be with Jacob, but he’s reluctant to do the one simple thing that he do to be with her – leave his L.A. furniture company and move to London. As Roger Ebert so eloquently puts it…
His chairs look ordinary to me. The one we see is a straight chair made of wood. We see him lovingly perfecting a sketch of it. Assemble a dozen second graders, assign them to draw a chair, merge their drawings into one, and they would look like a Jacob Chair. This guy is no Eames.
While things don’t play-out as well in the second half of the film as they did in the first, there is enough depth of character in there to suck you and split the audience between wanting them to make this work or to just say “Screw this. Time to move on.”
The two leads are both brilliant and this script in other hands, I include the director in that, could have been bordering on unwatchable. Felicity Jones is more than deserving of the stupid tag the media has bestowed on her as “Britain’s next big thing”.
And just a final word on the closing scene. This year has left me with some great closing scenes, Another Earth, Take Shelter and Martha Marcy May Marlene among them. We can add another to that list. Like Crazy‘s final scene brought just enough of that feeling of “gaaaaaaah, you can’t finish it there, we need more!”.
Drake Doremus / Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones / Starring: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence / 90 min / Drama, Romance / Release: 4 October (US/Canada), 3 February 2012 (UK/IRL)