PFF ’11: Like Crazy (Drake Doremus, USA)

At first appearing to be nothing more than a socially relevant, potentially poignant examination of love on the rocks following a couple’s inevitable struggle with their long-distance relationship, Like Crazy was fortunate enough to have scored the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Piquing my interest from here on in, I took it upon myself to catch the film as part of the 20th annual Philadelphia Film Festival’s opening night celebration. To my surprise, the film almost immediately transcends any and all labels the general public may have branded it with thanks to an unremarkable, generic marketing campaign, establishing itself as yet another refreshing, emotionally honest tread through some noticeably familiar territory.

By implementing a relatively straightforward yet effective gimmick that takes the form of Jones’ Anna overstaying her student visa, Like Crazy easily overcomes a shaky opening act by remaining agreeably hard-hitting in its dramatic sensibilities as the film’s lovebirds are initially driven apart. Regardless of how long it takes for us to warm up to these characters as individuals, the film’s chronicling of the couple’s presumably ill-fated romance touches upon some very convincing themes, constantly assuring us through mostly unsubtle instances of symbolism that they merely met at the wrong time: a time when both personal and professional growth were unavoidable, thus further pushing them apart despite how desperately they long to remain together amid obstacle after obstacle.

Much like last year’s superior, mildly similar Blue Valentine, Like Crazy benefits from its almost fully improvisational nature by accentuating the undeniably fantastic chemistry Yelchin and Jones share early on and throughout the film’s entirety. It’s this quality that compensates for the film’s sometimes awkward structuring, helping us put aside the choppy, questionable juxtaposition of sequences in favor of showing off its frequently engaging sense of sometimes brutal emotional honesty. Awkwardness aside, the emotional game of table tennis that often ensues as the film transitions from one scenario to the next remains satisfying, and if anything serves as a constant testament to the long-lasting effect these lovelorn individuals had on each other.

Providing us with an unflinching, sometimes devastating account of a couple’s attempt to cope with how difficult it is to stay together when they’re so very far apart, Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy is an exceptionally worthwhile addition to the emotionally crippling romance-drama subgenre. While it’s not exactly as technically proficient as you’d hope, two dynamite central performances from Anton Yelchin and newcomer Felicity Jones help maintain a fantastic sense of believability as the film implements several devices that help it cleverly surpass convention. As a fantastic opening to an above average festival experience, to say that Like Crazy fits the bill would be a pretty tremendous understatement.

Rating: 7/10

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