Saturday, December 10, 2011

Like Crazy (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

Like Crazy

Although many romantic films are well done, the romance is a genre that has been often critically maligned or overused, especially in Hollywood.  Romantic films usually involve great stretches of colorful quirky bliss followed by tangles and twists of the heart only to be topped off by a grand Hollywood ending of the two together at last. There have been countless films in this mode involving goofy moments, missed phone calls and frequent  "what do you mean?"-its in the dialogue.

Refreshingly, "Like Crazy" is not one of these. In setting and tone the film has an earthy sense of rhythm, more in keeping with the cross-cultural "Once" (2006), the punchy "Blue Valentine" or the heartfelt but melodramatic "One Day". With these three films as with "Like Crazy", there is the sense that love is a fragile element or charmed spell that can dissipate forever if shaken or bumped. 

This film stars Anton Yelchin as Jacob and Felicity Jones as Anna. Jacob and Anna are college students in L.A and that's all well and good. But Cupid's arrow goes sideways a bit in the middle. Anna is from the UK and Jacob is American. 

If you can forgive the perpetually zooming camera at times that hovers and zooms about like a debauched angel, this film is well played and genuine with not a disingenuous scene to be found. Even the buzzy camerawork finds  its  place, illustrating  the overstimulation of first love, a sensation that gives haunt and meaning to everything from the still to the scrambled. The camera even dares  to go under the sheets.

Anna is a bit preppy and devil may care while Jacob is disheveled and bohemian, but not so bohemian as to be unrealistic. He makes wooden chairs that look damn uncomfortable but that doesn't matter. He has a kind of Van Gogh aura  with a spaced out smile and looks like he's made of unspooled thread so he's not wound too tight. 

At first all is bliss. Then  reality strikes. Anna's visa runs out, which starts an avalanche of worry and a nerve knocking roller coaster of love's weep and woe.

I never thought this was possible in a so called romantic movie but the outside events that keep the lovers apart actually do seem  conspiratorial, even supernatural, akin to a film directed by Cassevetes or Polanski. The world is really out to get them. The love-spun  arguments are portrayed as they often are in real life: unpredictable, vexing and abrupt.

This is the first romance to my knowledge that deals with the pitfalls of immigration and we see the grim machinery at work here with all its sad and knotty dilemmas. Bureaucracy does not brake for Juliet. 

Drake Doremus keeps his camera rolling and we see profound  sadness in the distraught faces of Jones and Yelchin as they confront mountains of instantaneous and unheard of Catch 22s. The heartbreak in their faces reach a sparse Expressionist glare that is without any heart-bound musical lilts or tear-jerking drops on a piano. This is  life and you bring your own experiences with the film, be they wonderful or wicked, quirky or confusing. There is so much intensity of expression that I thought of Lars Von Trier. But fear not. In "Like Crazy" you have your melancholy Romeo without Rene Magritte. Events simply unfold. No surrealism necessary.

The film is masterful for letting the characters move about as they might in actual life, with a hasty abruptness of action and without the ponderousness of any exposition. Despite the determined struggles that these two contend with to break free and stay together, Jacob and Anna might just as eagerly return to their home-country loves of convenience: for Jacob, the lynx-eyed and serpentine beauty, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) and for Anna, the earnest and anal do-gooder, Simon,  (Charlie Bewley) who resembles a sport left out of a drawing room comedy. The circumstances featuring each of these second string valentines are both sympathetic and capricious, and all too human. Your heart will leap in familiarity as much as in apprehension. 

The final courage of the film--excluding the obvious call for immigration reform--is that it reveals a disturbing truth in human nature: Love is indeed an unstable emotional chemical. Once dropped and changed, love can mutate and  allow us to become duplicitous, to ultimately reveal alternate sides of ourselves to other lovers and do so willingly.

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