Friday, November 25, 2011

Like Crazy.

Like Crazy (Drake Doremus, 2011)

We can’t believe the blog has been around long enough to have a 2nd annual anything, but here we are: it’s the 2nd Annual Taste My Sad Oscar Watch! Much like last year, we’ll be tackling the sad new films that are being positioned for Oscar (and other awards) attention. I suppose this feature had a soft launch last month with our review of Weekend (I’m giggling right now at the use of the term “soft launch” in relation to that film), but I doubt that film, although very good, was in wide enough release (giggling again) to receive major attention. (Our post about it hasn’t even gotten any comments yet!)

In any case, let the 2ATMSOW begin! Feel free to read up to the plot summary if you want to remain unspoiled for this film, currently at your local indie theater.

Category: Sad movie about people who are like, crazy. Other films in this genre include Shutter Island and Nights in Rodanthe.

Of course this is actually a sad movie about people who are (like) crazy in love. (Jay-Z and Beyonce are two such people.) I’m running out of things to say about sad romance films. I think we should start a Taste My Sad-sponsored campaign to end all extenuating circumstances that make potential romances sad. Mudslides, shipwrecks, car accidents, time traveling, cancer, etc. (And now with this film, we can add visa problems to the list.) Comment with your suggestions on how to do this, because it seems like it would take a lot of effort. We might need to get the UN involved. Or Bono.

My familiarity with this issue: I remember how annoying it was to get my visa to go to the Czech Republic. I have a feeling I might relate to all that stuff. Embassies are bureaucratic nightmares. It’s almost as if they don’t want anyone to travel anywhere. And the thought of some visa problem keeping me from being with some tasty foreign dish is untenable.

I saw this movie while home for Thanksgiving with fellow Strong Islander, previous blog contributor, and FOTB Melissa Passarelli. I arrived at the theater earlier than Melissa, and was saving us seats in the otherwise-empty theater when an older woman entered and said to me, with a thick Long Island accent, “So I hear this is some kind of romance film.” There were about five minutes until the movie started. In those five minutes, I received several pieces of career advice, the itinerary of her most recent visit to Washington, DC, an exhortation to see the film Margin Call (which she had literally just seen in the adjacent theater), and a plaintive lamentation about the fact that her sons, both of whom work on Wall Street and are doing very well, do not call her enough. It’s just so good to be home.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Anna and Jacob fall instantly in love when they meet as students at an L.A. university. But Anna is British and when graduation approaches, Anna decides to stay and violate her student visa rather than returning to England. After a visit home, she is then unable to return to the United States. While fighting customs and immigration battles, Anna and Jacob must decide if their relationship is worth the distance and the hardship.”

What I thought of the movie: (SPOILERS HENCEFORTH, OBVS.) I dunno. I liked certain parts of it, and other parts left me cold. I’m all about romance, and the actors were generally good (especially Felicity Jones, who I now believe is the most wonderful girl in the world), but it didn’t really add up for me.

Jones is a British student in LA, who leaves a cutesy note on classmate Anton Yelchin’s car one day. (I hated that, by the way. It smacked of Manic Pixie Dream Girlism, and I was worried it was gonna be one of those movies. But for the rest of the movie she’s pretty normal.) They fall in love. It’s very cutesy, often too cutesy. There are the aforementioned visa problems (she overstays hers to spend another summer in LA and is subsequently not allowed back into the country) and long-distance relationship problems and the various other problems that humans have in relationships, especially when the dudes are kind of jerks. (She’s bright and sunny and supportive, he’s less so on all accounts. There’s no question about who to root for here.)

A movie like this is so frustrating because of its flashes of inspiration. The dialogue in the film was, apparently, entirely improvised, which makes the film seem realistic and unplanned, which is cool. Specific scenes really worked as well: their semi-awkward first-date conversation, when he visits her in London and they go out to a bar and he feels out of place around her friends, when she visits him and doesn’t really know what to expect. Those things felt right.

But on the whole I found myself too angry at the characters’ actions to feel all that much sympathy at their romantic plight. And so at the end of the film I found myself wondering what the filmmakers were going for: to try to make us root for them because of their (like) crazy stupid love, to depict something that should have failed, or something in between.

What FOTB Melissa Passarelli thought of the movie: Like John, I had mixed feelings about Like Crazy. It was very true to life, and as such had endearing, uncomfortable, heart-wrenching and infuriating moments. Star-crossed lovers Anna and Jacob were clearly the ones to root for, but I wanted to smack them upside the head half the time. Anna, why couldn’t you just keep it in your pants for a summer so that you wouldn’t end up ruining a bunch of people’s lives down the road? Jacob, I appreciate you trying to make it work with Jennifer Lawrence, but leading her on and dumping her twice for the same girl is gonna give her a complex.

Still, the movie was one of the most relatable stories I’ve ever seen because it shows how one decision can change the course of several people’s lives, how one love can tear others apart, and how that one love can sometimes not be enough. I would also like to note that Anton Yelchin was quite pleasing in this movie and thus deserving of Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, despite what John thinks. (Editor’s Note: Get out.)

How I related to the movie: Yeah that was the thing. Jennifer Lawrence plays “the other woman,” and she’s as hot as anything, of course. And I personally think Anton Yelchin is eh-looking (and even if he wasn’t he was kind of a knob in this film). You can see how this would upset me.

As I mentioned, you feel for the girl a lot more than the guy in this film. She tries real hard to overcome her visa issues, but he seems unwilling to move to London to be with her. After the several cutesy montages that really drive home the point that they are In Love, that plot point was somewhat inexplicable. Or at least I couldn’t relate to it. I would go to any country to hang out with Felicity Jones.

I realize that not agreeing with the choices the characters make is not a reason to dislike a movie. We’re allowed, often invited, to dislike characters and disagree with them. But that only works when those characters are fully-formed, when we feel like we know them and that we can speak to what's best for them. The characters in this film let us down in this regard. We want to know them and be there for them, but the movie doesn't let us. It's annoying.

How I felt after the movie ended: I was recently discussing the film The Graduate with some FsOTB. Roger Ebert wrote that, when he first saw the film when it was released, he was around Benjamin Braddock’s age, and thus related to that character completely. Upon rewatching it many years later, he found himself sympathizing with Mrs. Robinson. Perspective is everything, I suppose.

Now this movie was nowhere near as good as The Graduate, of course. But might I have enjoyed it more if I were younger and filled with youthful romantic naiveté? Am I already too old and cynical to appreciate one of these storybook romance films? Or should they have just made a better movie? I’m hoping it’s the latter.


  1. anton yelchin will always be hot/overrated to any girl that saw charlie bartlett at an impressionable age (me)

    and speaking of jennifer lawrence, i'll be sorely disappointed if you don't blog about the hunger games! not only sad, but STRESSFUL

  2. worse than the graduate, my #1 least favorite movie of all time? i saw that movie the night before my actual college graduation, and i found it 100% impossible to relate to either character. (elaine, maybe. she seemed halfway normal. but not the two leads.)

    the idea of a movie with unscripted scenes seems like an interesting stunt, but not something i'd want to watch, frankly. most of the time when i watch a movie, the thing i am most interested in is consistently snappy dialogue delivered with impeccable pacing. it's pretty much impossible to get that with improv even if the actors are really talented.

  3. To those who have not seen the movie: Anton/Jacob was NOT a "knob" as it were. There were real reasons he could not move to England! Think of having to ship all that furniture (he's a furniture maker)! At least he tried to remain faithful to Jennifer Lawrence, while Felicity Jones would always choose the worst moments to tell Anton/Jacob that she was ready to make it work. Girls.

  4. REBUTTAL: he was like 23. no one should be that entrenched in anything when they're 23. even furniture. bit of a knob, that guy.

  5. There's plenty of wood to make furniture in london.

  6. I loved the movie but the major problem in it is that you basically don't totally understand Jacob's motivation for staying in California, like you said. Personally I got swept away by this movie because I've been in a long distance relationship and the movie perfectly hit all those emotional ups and downs. So I was FELLIN IT. But when you think back on it later, it's like "why didn't he just move to London, if he loved her that much?" So I feel like this movie could have been SO GREAT if they had somehow explored Jacob's thoughts a little more. Also Anton Yelchin is cute. Also now I feel bad that I told you you looked like him a bit since you find him unattractive. my bad. Also hello.