Young People Love Like Crazy
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2011 4 Nov
DVD Release Date: March 6, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: October 28, 2011 (limited); November 4, 2011 (wider)
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and brief strong language)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Drake Doremus
Actors: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead, Finola Hughes
Young people do stupid things. This includes, perhaps especially, young people in love. For proof, look to Like Crazy, but try not to be too tough on the two lovebirds at the heart of this nicely performed, sometimes frustrating tale of frustrated desire and flaky commitment. They love each other but are having a dickens of a time figuring out what that means once the initial heat of their relationship cools into the long-term commitment they think they want.
Jacob (Anton Yelchin, Terminator Salvation) and Anna (Felicity Jones, Chéri) meet while in college in Los Angeles. Romance blooms quickly for the two students, but there’s a looming problem. Anna is in the States on a visa, and she’ll soon have to return to her native England. Should she and Jacob bother to pursue a relationship in the face of such an obstacle?
They do. They bond over a mutual love of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” They sit on Anna’s bed writing each other notes. At the end of their first date, they look longingly at one another through Anna’s apartment door. We don’t see any sexual activity—yet—but it’s not long before Anna’s mom (Alex Kingston) is asking the couple, point blank, if they’re “being careful.” Like Crazy soon removes any lingering doubt about the extent of Jacob and Anna’s romantic involvement, showing them waking up together, snuggling and mooning at each other.
And yet, relationship-development scenes that come across as clichéd in most romantic films work nicely in Like Crazy, due in some part to an effective instrumental soundtrack music that doesn’t dictate our emotional response so much as underline the budding romance between Jacob and Anna. A montage of shared romantic moments between the couple—that hoariest of movie clichés—is pulled off painlessly in Like Crazy, lulling us ahead of the departure we know Anna will have to make once the school year ends.
She decides instead to overstay her visa—“we can stay in bed all summer,” Anna tells Jacob. It’s a decision that will haunt the couple throughout the rest of the film. When Anna eventually departs the States and tries to return, she’s held up by immigration officials due to her earlier violation. Soon the couple has broken things off, but the breakup is temporary.
When they reconnect in England, Anna’s dad (Oliver Muirhead, The Social Network) suggests a solution that will be much cheaper than flying across the ocean every time they want to see each other: Get married. They dismiss the idea and move in the other direction, wondering if things might be easier if they see other people. When that approach presents problems of its own, Anna raises the idea of marriage—without any prompting from her father. While the couple spends time apart, things between them disintegrate. Jacob takes up with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) and Anna with neighbor Simon (Charlie Bewley, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse).
Watching Like Crazy is a frustrating experience, but not without moments of recognition. We’ve all made foolish relationship decisions, and we’ve suffered the consequences. Anna’s decision leads to heartache and pain, but it also helps Jacob and Anna see their need for a deeper, lasting commitment. The problem is that they have no foundational principles for marriage. Anna’s parents are still together and Jacob’s dad is long deceased, but they have no idea what marriage means beyond a nagging hunch that they’d like their relationship to have a more permanent status. Without any moral foundation, they’re unprepared for the struggles imposed by the separation forced upon them.
Like Crazy also has something to say about the transition from handwritten to electronic communications. It’s a point that’s open to interpretation, but it’s hard to miss that Jacob and Anna’s relationship kicks off with a handwritten note she leaves on his car windshield. She’s a writer/editor; she works with words. He’s a furniture designer—another occupation that suggests permanence and stability. She makes scrapbooks about their romance. Cellphones are scarcely seen early in the film, and when they are, they’re used for voice calls, not texts. At one moment when their relationship is still new, Alex asks that Anna send him an e-mail and tell him a good time to talk. When the couple visits Anna’s parents, they all play the word-definition game Balderdash. Texting grows more prominent only as Jacob and Anna’s relationship deteriorates, and even then one text asks, “can u call me?” At a low moment in their relationship, we hear a series of voice-mail messages in which the couple struggle with how, or if, they should move forward.
What is the film trying to tell us? Maybe that older ways of communicating are associated with traditional ideas about relationships, or a time when sorting through the challenges of love seemed less complex. Whether it shows a preference for verbal over written communication, or letters and e-mails over texts, is something each viewer has to sort out for himself.
The great strength of Like Crazy is that it understands the moment in life where schooling ends and professional life and longer-term commitments begin. Much of this may be due to the ages of the talent involved. Director Drake Doremus, born in 1983, gets strong performances from Yelchin and Jones, who were born in 1989 and 1984, respectively. Yelchin, best known for playing Chekov in the Star Trek reboot, is convincing as a love-struck student and entrepreneur. Jones brings the right mix of cusp-of-adulthood innocence and a person navigating through major life decisions.
If you see Like Crazy, don’t expect to approve of the characters’ decisions, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself identifying with the mistake-prone couple. The early 20s is one of life’s toughest transition points. If you have something solid to hold on to—something deeper than romantic feelings—count yourself blessed.
- Language/Profanity: “Oh my G-d”; “s-itty”; the “f” word.
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Several scenes of drinking; at one point Anna says she’s stopped drinking in order to get healthy; Anna’s dad does whiskey tastings for Jacob and Anna; Anna drinks shots at a bar; a nightclub scene of drinking and dancing; champagne consumed out of the bottle.
- Sex/Nudity: Anna and Jacob look longingly at each other at the end of date, and we’re not sure if something happened physically between them before they part ways. But soon they’re shown waking up next to each other, kissing in bed and having sex (no nudity shown); Anna’s mom asks if the couple is “being careful”; Anna and Jacob bathe together, but Anna is wearing something in the water; they’re shown in robes in the next scene; a montage of images of Anna and Jacob in bed shows them asleep in their underwear and night clothes; Anna tells Jacob she’s been “sleeping with lots of people,” but seems to be joking until Jacob presses her for the truth; they discuss whether they should see other people, and they both do get intimately involved with other people; Sam shown in a night shirt; sex scenes between Anna and someone she’s not married to, and between Jacob and someone he’s not married to, include moaning and gasping; a woman’s bare leg and underwear are exposed; Anna and Jacob shower together.
- Violence/Crime: None.
Marriage: Anna’s dad says she and Jacob would save him a lot of money if they would get married; later, they do, to contemporary vows; the couple is physically separated while Anna tries to get her visa privileges restored; marital infidelity depicted.
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