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Overall Rating
2.24

Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look: 5.88%
Average: 41.18%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap47.06%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Like Crazy
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Come Back, "Restless"--All (Well, Most) Is Forgiven"
1 stars

Like most people with any burning interest in the world of film criticism, I have spent the last few days reading the recently published biography of the late Pauline Kael, one of the best and most controversial practitioners of that particular art. One of the things that I found interesting about it was that one of the things about her that both attracted and annoyed readers in equally vociferous measure, especially later in her career, was her tendency towards hyperbole when applying judgement to her subjects in her reviews. You rarely saw her offering up a mixed or muddled opinion of a film or filmmaker--to her, they tended to be unquestionably brilliant or unspeakably awful with absolutely no middle ground whatsoever. This part resonated with me especially because I have occasionally been accused of the same thing by editors, readers and colleagues alike who sometimes suspect that I am deliberately going overboard just to be deliberately outrageous. (I remember one editor dropping me a note to make sure if I really and truly meant it when I wanted to give "Miami Vice" four stars, for example.) I will admit that I have been know to offer up the occasionally strong opinion, positive or negative, on a film (especially if it comes right after seeing it when the experience is still fresh in the mind) but I like to think that I then go ahead and back up said opinions with relatively sober and level-headed arguments as a way of making my case in a clear and cogent manner. For example, if I were to state that a film like the new indie romance "Like Crazy" is one of the biggest and most obnoxious loads of cloying crap to come along in a very long time, I would hope that those of you reading those words would have enough confidence in my abilities as a critic to believe that I actually had a point to make and that I wasn't just saying such a thing in order to call attention to myself. Okay, now that that's settled, I can thank you for your brief indulgence in this matter and get on to the review proper.

The new indie romance "Like Crazy" is one of the biggest and most obnoxious loads of cloying crap to come along in a very long time. Granted, I have never had much patient for twee little films about twee little people and their twee little romantic problems but even those with a taste for such things may find themselves growing so aggravated with it after a while that they may begin developing a tremendous urge to punch the characters on the screen, the people sitting next to you and the projectionist sitting up in the booth running it. Hell, even that McDonald's commercial that is currently running in which a pair of young newlyweds find their upcoming honeymoon trip torn asunder by the simultaneous return of the McRib sandwich is a more plausible and engaging portrait of the pleasure and pain of young love and offers up more genuine nutritional value to boot. How to explain then the fact that the film won the prestigious Grand Jury prize at this year's Sundance film festival? Well, I was about to make some joke about the jury having been sequestered, presumably from seeing anything good, but after realizing that the last few years had seen the award going to such wildly overrated and patently unconvincing works as "Frozen River," "Precious" and "Winter's Bone," I guess that the old grey prize just ain't what it used to be after all.

Our heroes are the British-born Anna (Felicity Jones) and American Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a couple of students at a California university and when we first meet them, Anna is delivering a speech in a class and can't help but notice that fellow student Jacob is completely ignoring her talk in order to doodle in his notebook. Inexplicably, she apparently finds this endearing and responds by writing a lengthy mash note--one roughly the size of "Gravity's Rainbow" and one that begins with her insisting that she is most certainly not a nut case--and sticks it on the windshield of his car. Even more inexplicably, he finds this endearing as well and after a tentative first date that finds them bonding over Paul Simon's "Graceland" album, they find themselves falling crazy in love with each other and are soon inseparable as they look towards graduation and pursuing their dreams--his as a furniture designer and hers as a writer. The only drawback is that once the school year ends, Anna's student visa will expire and she will have to return home to England for a brief spell before she can come back to the U.S. Under normal circumstance, she would return home and during their separation, she would realize that he was kind of a bore and not much of a craftsman (the chair he lovingly crafts for her appears to be inspired by the Nothing Special school of design), he would realize that she was both kind of a bore and a bit of a loon and the two would simply drift apart. Instead, Anna impulsively decides at the very last second to skip returning home and, much like the film itself, overstay her welcome in the U.S.

All is going well for the couple until Anna has to return home to attend a wedding and is denied re-entry into the U.S. because of her violation. Stuck in England, she is crestfallen but while she begins to cut through the bureaucratic nightmare of her own design, the only way that she and Jacob can be together is if he comes over to England. He visits and everything is briefly okay but when the subject of him just moving over there to be with the love of his life, he demurs, ostensibly because his business is beginning to take off and there is clearly no need for furniture in England. "Wait," you may be asking, "why doesn't he simply marry her and turn the film into a remake of 'Green Card' in order to make everyone happy?" but that concept is never even broached for a long time. Eventually, it begins to become clear that while Anna is still crazy go nuts for Jacob, his ardor is cooling a bit and when I say "cooling a bit," I mean "banging his hot co-worker (Jennifer Lawrence) and ducking most of Anna's calls." Time and the appeal process grind on and even Anna finds herself settling into a career of her own and even a tentative romance with her next-door neighbor (Charlie Bewley) but despite all of that, Anna and Jacob still can't bring themselves to make the final cut from each other.

As dreary and uneventful as the plot of "Like Crazy" may seem to be in the retelling, it is nothing compared to the mind-numbing experience of having it play out in front of you. Watching it is like being stuck in line at the world's most self-consciously hip coffee shop for 90 minutes behind the world's least interesting couple without even getting a cup of coffee at the end for your troubles. Despite its pose of being some cutting-edge look at contemporary romance, the film offers up absolutely nothing in the way of insight or observation, preferring instead to dabble in symbolism so ham-fisted that it makes one long for the comparative subtlety bit in "Bright Lights, Big City" when that story's hipster douchebag traded in his sunglasses for a loaf of bread and metaphorically regained his soul. For example, early in the film, Jacob makes Anna a chair and while it is clearly a part of his Nothing Special line, she treasures it. Much later on, back in England and seeing a new guy, that replacement beau impulsively buys her a new chair and stashes the old one away because it doesn't go with her life and whatnot. In theory, we are supposed to be heartbroken over the way that this oaf has trampled upon her feelings and his attempt to force her to break with her past for good. In reality, I found myself astonished at the clumsy way in which this point was inserted and found myself reflecting that at no point in human history has a guy ever bought his loved one a chair unless it was a). part of a carefully chosen design plan or b). it was the Eric Roberts Sex Chair from "Star 80."

To make matters worse, the things that Jacob and Anna say to each other are so trite and banal and uninteresting that I assumed that writer-director Drake Doremus (whose previous film was entitled "Douchebag" and I will leave the obvious jokes to others) just had his actors say and do things that were meant to mimic actual human behavior but which more often copied the kind of leaden banter that is rarely heard outside of commercials for lesser beers. Imagine my shock to discover that the screenplay apparently consisted of a 60-page outline of scenes and the dialogue that is heard was actually the result of improvs based on that outline. In response, all I can say is that if this is what they think that interesting conversation consists of, I won't have what they are having. Things just get worse and worse until it finally arrives at its absolutely enraging ending, one of those archly "ambiguous" finales that will have easily duped viewers muttering "so true" to themselves while mentally reminding themselves to download the instantly forgettable soundtrack of hipster crap. Personally, I found myself hoping that the oh-so-achingly poignant final image would be interrupted by a giant Transformer crashing down from above and squashing them like grapes on the basis that it would be the one point in the proceedings in which something actually happened.

Of course, even the most inane screen romance can be salvaged as long as the leads display the kind of chemistry that makes you believe that they are a real couple even in the face of silly script contrivances. And yet, "Like Crazy" fails on that basis as well because its leads are never convincing or likable either individually or as a couple. As far as I can recall, I have never encountered Felicity Jones before but while she is admittedly cute as the proverbial button, she comes across here as less like a real person and more like a failed British experiment at developing their very own version of Ellen Page. To be fair, during the brief moments when she is allowed to dial down the annoyance factor, she comes within spitting distance of being vaguely likable and perhaps with the right script--or a script--she might become a face worth watching. Anton Yelchin, on the other hand, is such a drag throughout that he inadvertently subverts the entire movie on the basis that it is impossible to conceive of anyone finding him remotely interesting or attractive--instead of going from ardor to discomfort to tension, he spends the entire movie acting as if he is suffering from mono. To further underscore just how little Jones and Yelchin bring to the proceedings, Jennifer Lawrence, who shot to stardom in last year's wildly overrated Sundance favorite "Winter's Bone," turns up in the supporting role of Jacob's other girlfriend and flat out steals the entire film solely on the basis of her obvious personality and star power. I understand that she most likely did this film before her career broke wide open with the success of "Winter's Bone" but even if that movie had never existed, her work here would be impossible to ignore. She is so lively and colorful, despite having perilously little to do, that she throws the whole thing out of whack because you can't understand why she would see anything in a drip like Jacob in the first place and why he wouldn't cling to her like grim death if she were actually willing to give him the time of day in the first place.

Although there are plenty of other things that one could do in order to pass the time in a more spiritually profitable way than sitting through "Like Crazy"--basically anything short of tossing McDonald's applications on Occupy "Blank" protesters would qualify--I would like to offer a legitimate alternative. Once upon a time, there was an absolutely wonderful movie entitled "Before Sunrise" that followed an American guy and a European girl as they meet on a train and impulsively spend the night wandering the streets of Vienna while talking about their hopes and philosophies while gradually becoming aware of both the attraction developing between them and the inevitability of their separation in a few too-short hours. This film, as well as its equally impressive 2004 follow-up "Before Sunset," were joyous cinematic exercises that featured two characters who were likable and intelligent people who were so fascinating to both look at and listen to that the film could have been shot entirely in real time and it would have been just as spellbinding. If you have somehow never seen that film and are unaccountably contemplating seeing "Like Crazy," I implore you to seek it out instead so that you can see how wonderful a film of this type can be when in the right hands. If you have seen it, I would heartily recommend taking the time to watch it again on the basis that once you have seen God, metaphorically speaking, it would be pointless to go back to the golden calf, or smug craptacular that lacks the insight of a typical "Love Is. . ." panel. However, if you do decide to go see "Like Crazy" after all and actually wind up enjoying it, I can only hope that you either see it with someone who enjoys it just as much or that you meet someone who feels the same way about it at some point down the line, if only to spare everyone the risk of potential embarrassment.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=21759&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/04/11 13:48:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 47th Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 47th Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2011 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 34th Starz Denver Film Festival For more in the 34th Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/13/13 David H. Smart, non-PC romantic drama 5 stars
11/18/11 Jaycee #whitewhine: The Movie. 1 stars
11/07/11 AARON LONGG Great Review, Peter. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 1 stars
11/06/11 Elliot Whoever reviewed this is really bad at writing. 4 stars
10/28/11 PAUL SHORTT SMART, ENGAGING ROMANTIC DRAMA 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Oct-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Mar-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Oct-2011
  DVD: 06-Mar-2012




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