Monday, November 21, 2011

Fools Rush In: LIKE CRAZY

Like Crazy is not quite the worst movie of the year, but it has a good chance of being one of the least interesting. It’s a romance that attempts to bring a more realistic edge to its story, showing the difficulties in the central relationship that cause the couple to strain and to stray, all the while cooing at each other and declaring their soul mate status. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play the college kids who fall head over heels over the course of a montage. It, the movie, has barely started and they’re already eating ice cream cones and driving around the go-kart track together. Is there anything less interesting than watching, devoid of context, two people snuggle and whisper and say that they’re in love? These two say it, but I don’t believe it. I believe they like spending time together and they’re attracted to each other. But love? I’m not buying it.

They’re a couple with no obvious chemistry and have almost nothing of interest to say. When I read that the many scenes in the film were largely improvised I wasn’t surprised. That means the blame for the unimpressive dialogue, mumbled and repetitive, should fall on the cast for being bad improvisers as well as the writer-director Drake Doremus and his co-writer Ben York Jones for creating such unconvincing scenarios. There’s such a vague, wobbly feeling to it all as these two characters are living lives that are hastily sketched.

It’s a feeling brought about by the annoying, carefully careless hand-held camerawork as well as the facts of the story. Yelchin wants to make furniture. Jones is on a student visa and has to return to England soon. That’s the extent of what we know when they start staring longingly at one another and saying that they’re in love. I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. They think they’re in love simply because they whispered to each other, swapped life stories, had a little bit of fun, and can’t stand to be apart. Not that they’d had any real experience apart before they reached that conclusion.

The real conflict of the picture comes out of their bad decisions. She doesn’t want to part with her college sweetheart so she decides to stay for a few months past her visa’s expiration. She either naively believes that True Love will erase the very real rules of immigration or she’s really stupid. By overstaying her visa, all because she literally tells her boyfriend that she “doesn’t want to be sad,” she is unable to reenter the country after she goes back to her homeland for a week’s stay for her friend’s wedding.

This leads to a tearful scene when she’s denied reentry to the United States and is told she’s being put on the next plane back. It’s played as tragic, but this could hardly be less so. If she had left when her visa expired, there would be no problem if she wanted to come back as a tourist. Instead, she just made things harder on herself. Those couple of months – yes, two whole months! – of separation she skipped are replaced with endless red tape and a much longer separation. This isn’t a story about runaway bureaucracy catching up innocent lovers in inscrutable, unfortunate rules. This is a story about a couple that know the rules, break them anyways, and then are surprised they can’t be together.

But, of course, they can be together. Yelchin could move to England. He just seems like he doesn’t want to. Besides, he’s started his furniture business and his secretary is the very pretty Jennifer Lawrence (she deserves much better than this). So, he’s not going. He’ll visit a few times, but he won’t make the move. Jones’s lawyer goes to work on her visa and she goes to work at a magazine. Their lives move on. They should just acknowledge a good time, a learning experience, and get on with better things. But the movie, for some strange reason, keeps trying to push them together. This is a futile film romance with all subplot and detail stripped away. It’s not really interested in their careers or affairs. It’s not even interested in their families, even though Jones’s sweet, loving parents (Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston) are the only interesting, well-acted characters in the entire movie. No, the whole the film is focused on why these two characters need to be together despite, or more likely because of, their total stupidity.

Jones turns in what has to be the whiniest performance of the year, Yelchin, one of the least energetic. It is so very hard to care about them. I didn’t buy it as a romance. I didn’t even buy it as a movie romance. The whole thing’s cruising towards an unhappy ending and, when it gets there, it rings just as false as the opening mush. It’s a movie that improbably pushes its leads together at every turn, only to end up saying sometimes love can go wrong. Of course it can, but the film’s structure of coincidences and celebration of soul mate status sure did a good job of convincing these characters otherwise. I nearly strained my eyes with all the rolling they were doing. It’s the kind of movie that, after a while, I merely sat through, seething with impatience, desperately awaiting the end credits.

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