04 November 2011

Love Crazy

When asked about the existence of a higher power, renowned astrophysicist and cynosure talk show guest, Neil deGrasse Tyson, penetratingly responded:  "Every account of a higher power that I've seen described, of all religions that I've seen include many statements with regard to the benevolence of that power. When I look at the universe and all the ways the universe wants to kill us, I find it hard to reconcile that with statements of beneficence."  Scaling down to earthly matters, Drake Doremus' film, Like Crazy, suggests the universe cruelly conspires against lasting romance, too.

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play Jacob and Anna, two attractive but unassuming college students who fall in love their senior year.  Their courtship is sweetly innocent yet admiringly mature; against the backdrop of Los Angeles sprawl, they create a small intimate and idyllic world for themselves.  Complications arise when Anna, a British national, can't bear to leave Jacob and overstays her student visa.  A seemingly harmless indiscretion that nevertheless sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to their ending up eight time zones apart. 

The story is fairly simple and familiar.  As anyone who has attempted a long-distance relationship knows all too well, a labour of love rapidly devolves into awkward phone calls, histrionic text messages, crossed schedules, and, inevitably, new paramours.  Doremus, who co-wrote and directed the film, based the story on his own experiences battling immigration officials to reunite with his Austrian girlfriend, never allows the script to interfere with the business of storytelling.  He relies on his actors to express the characters' emotions via non-verbal cues.  To round off the experience of the personal, Doremus injects smartly placed expressionistic cinematography to convey the abstractions of anticipation, loneliness, and nostalgia.  The result is a crafted and memorable little film that resists Hollywood convention and strongly speaks to the stubborn perseverance of love, while reminding us how tenuous romance can be.


  1. I didn't really enjoy this movie because I didn't understand what was so compelling about the characters and the interactions which made the relationship worth saving. The first 1/3 of the movie felt like a Canon commercial - all beautifully lit shots of people staring adoringly at each other... for the camera. We are told that the two characters have this intense bond. This is evidenced by their many, MANY sleeping positions throughout the summer, carefully posed sitting angles on the grasses of England, and love for Paul Simon's Graceland (which by the way, was the most ludicrous attempt at bohemian cool I've ever seen) but it felt empty. The characters never share a meaningful conversation or even have experiences which would convincingly show that their lives share anything other than the reupolstering of an IKEA chair. Even if the audience accepts that the two have an inexplicable physical attraction (though I find the actor to be ugmo), it was not sufficient to justify the torturous rest of the movie. Neither character seems to be seriously interested in the substance of the other character even though we're told over and over again that they share something which can only be conveyed with dreamy eyed looks. I can't help but think about (and prefer) Before Sunrise with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. As unrealistic as two strangers meeting on a train deciding to continue their journey together for no reason other than just because, I am fully convinced that at the very least the two characters grow to genuinely like each other. The characters' desire to get to know the other person even if it ultimately leads to disagreement and bickering is what fills out that relationship and by the end of the movie (which ends somewhat ambiguously), it's believable that these two people who spent 24 hours pushing each other's buttons were willing to do something crazy together.

  2. Cheng,

    Thanks very much for reading my piece and for your post. It's very much appreciated.

    I mostly agree with your observations regarding the unfulfilled awkwardness of many of the scenes, however, my analysis differs greatly. Remember, these aren't fully-fledged 30something adults, they're kids who first fall in love in college. The virtue of young love is its innocent self-importance. In their minds, to be genuine, their love must be expressed through the lens of a Canon commercial. I thought the taciturn nature of the film imbued the couple with an affection so personal that it couldn't even be shared with the audience; we were left to fill in our own blanks. I found that endearing and smart.

    Most of all, I appreciated the film's repudiation of many Hollywood tropes refreshing and immediate. When new lovers come into their respective lives, they're not obnoxious or controlling or unfit in some obvious and glaring way. In fact, the new sweethearts are stable, kind, and affectionate. It made Jacob and Anna's desire for each other that much more powerful, that in spite of everything, they are still drawn to each other. That, coupled by the ambivalently "happy" ending, authenticated the film for me. It's a film grounded in the reality of modern experience.

    Now, it's not a perfect or masterful film, it was at times slow and too quiet, and you're right, character development was not a priority, but I found it to be a sweet little film that spoke truth to the difficulty of contemporary relationships. Ultimately, like any creative work, it comes down to individual taste.

    Thanks again for your comments!

  3. Valentin,

    I haven't had the pleasure of seeing this movie, but I did enjoy reading your original post, the response, and your response to the response. I had the affect of being convinced by both of your opinions about a film I hadn't seen. Your last point about taste caught my eye. I agree with you that of course all creative work and art comes down to individual taste, and that's a great word choice, since one can think of taste as a trait all have just in varying forms, or one can think of taste as something one has or does not have. Hence, some people's judgements on art can be effectively an expression of their lack of taste. This sounds like an pretentious thing to suggest, but the desire to ascertain a value from art, hence the desire to monetize taste, suggests we would like taste to have a hierarchical structure to some degree at least. We judge quality through awards and acclaim and newsworthiness and eyeball attracted even though we know those can be faulty ways to judge taste, if as you suggest taste can be judged at all. I guess at times one's opinion can be an expression of a lack of taste ,and at other times diverging opinions can be an example of varying taste, which certainly appears to be the case here. Anywho, I'm rambling. I must see this film.