DIRECTED BY DRAKE DOREMUS
STARRING: FELICITY JONES, ANTON YELCHIN, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, CHARLIE BEWLEY, ALEX KINGSTON, OLIVER MUIRHEAD, FINOLA HUGHES, BEN YORK JONES and CHRIS MESSINA
You remember the scene in Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995) where the couple-by-chance decide not to exchange contact details in a pessimistic move to at least safeguard their encounter, if not give it a chance to succeed, vowing to meet after 6 months of no physical disturbance instead? Well, ‘Like Crazy’ takes the poison. We watch two really young, tactless, heart-on-sleeve romantics torture themselves with shock therapy sessions of pangs and subsequent resuscitation back into their dream and then shoved back on course towards either impending doom or sure-shot monotony that’s drearier than their flower-patterned notebooks and their heart-shaped beds.
Drake Doremus writes and directs this film like a love letter. It’s his own experience, we hear. Semi-autobiographical. That means the names have been changed. And locations, possibly; the rest of the exterior. Even characters, perhaps. Anna (Felicity Jones, with an incredibly endearing performance) tells her Boss at the magazine that she runs errands for that her writing is about someone who’s inspired her a lot and that writing about him is her way of giving something back. Jacob (Anton Yelchin) can only draw pictures of chairs when he puts pen on paper. This film has materialized. I guess that leaves one with no assumptions on who’s who.
But then that’s irrelevant. True that in a film like this, we (the audience) play the sick-in-the-head sort of postman who opens the letters that pass through his hands. Much like how in ‘Blue Valentine’ we played the guilt-ridden neighbour who listens in on next-door fights. We squirm in course of stories as these, however sumptuous. They’re like cholesterol that’s straight out of the stove and piping hot. But these, we find, are legitimized by cinema, the pervert-art. There shall be no check on pleasure, no holds barred. The correspondence is only as juicy as the words communicated with, the sex-tape only as good as the intimacy that’s visible. Empathy works against the viewer, but without it there isn’t really a point. Success lies in how disarming the experience turns out to be, fighting against one’s self-disenchantment. You believe, you feel. You feel, they win.
Jacob and Anna meet at college, like each other, get cozy and get madly attached, all with complete knowledge that Anna will have to leave the country to go back to England, where she’s from. At one instance, Anna overstays her Visa, reluctant to leave Jacob for the summer, an impulsive, immensely mindless decision without which the film wouldn’t have been around. We’re not to ask if the summer compensated in memories for the disaster that it turned out to be. It doesn’t matter. Not to us, not to Doremus. He jump-cuts to the point where Anna’s told she can be in America no more and is ushered back to England with but just a semblance of contact between them and their odd time-zones. Guess they’d just have to be thankful she’s not further from the East.
Anna’s parents are very much involved, Jacob’s mother is merely mentioned. They talk of marriage when Jacob tours England to visit. There are two things that discomfort him at that point. One is the obvious fact that Anna seems to be looking for alternatives. The other is the fact that he has one of his own. Then again, two things still seem to keep the couple hooked with each other, even if in varying degrees. A chair that has ‘Like Crazy’ engraved on the underside and a bracelet that spells ‘Patience’, both gifted to Anna by her woodman lover. As a counter, she throws loads of love and confusion, which, in course of time, morphs into clearer love. Her indulgence is a full-blown storm while his is but a cloudy mess. And they’re raining in different continents. That, in short, is their problem.
Jennifer Lawrence as Samantha (shortened to a tomboyish ‘Sam’) is Jacob’s alternative, before I forget. Although I doubt if anyone can. Both Yelchin and Jones grow in course of the film, Yelchin distinctively uncomfortable with those parts where he’s had to feign an innocence uncharacteristic of both his physical and emotional self. Jones, on the other hand, undergoes a near-perfect transition. Her performance carries the film and the entire weight of Doremus’ intentions, honest or not. With her, he finds his baby in a safe, immensely likeable pair of hands. Lawrence, on her part, contributes with a maturity beyond the ages of both herself and her character. As Roger Ebert would put it, in her we have a very important actress. Of this generation and the ones to come.
Pain turns pleasurable the second time around. The best way to beat it is to remember it; not forget. Doremus would agree. I remember telling a friend about how death takes people who haven’t even come to think of it yet. ‘Like Crazy’ shows a separation equivalent. It’s humble. It’s helpless. It fights fire just to get burned, and it burns in a flame that’s a glorious orange. The flame flickers, but it’s there. I hope you understand. It’s an honest love story with a likeable lead pair. And Jennifer Lawrence. She spikes it further. It works.