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“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”

Review: “Like Crazy”

Grade: C+ (Rent It) 

THERE’S A REASON why the romance “Like Crazy,” from director Drake Doremus, has been hanging around the multiplex long after its October release: it’s artful and earnest, and while “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” fills two to three auditoriums a night, zombifying the nation, there’s a smaller, simpler love story just around the corner.  It’s from the young director who brought us “Spooner” in 2009 and “Douchebag” in 2010.  Doremus’s latest, “Like Crazy,” picked up the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and while it’s hardly a perfect film – nor is it very crazy – it does contain some tender moments.  What’s not to love about a girl who drinks whiskey, reads e.e. cummings, and a boy who shares her love of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and gives a handmade chair as a gift (the inscription reading, underneath the seat, “LIKE CRAZY”)?

Sorry, Twi-hards, no bare-chested werewolves here: instead, Mr. Doremus, shooting in hand-held digital and without a script, gives us Jacob and Anna.  Anton Yelchin (“Fright Night”) plays Jacob, a furniture designer living in Santa Monica, and the fresh-faced Felicity Jones (“Brideshead Revisited,” “The Tempest”) plays his English idol.  The two meet at UCLA and during a class presentation, Anna discusses the history of journalism.  Talk of “alternative narratives” inside the classroom alerts us to the film’s interest in non-conventional storytelling.  Whole portions of the pair’s love affair are left out, along with actors who are sometimes shot out-of-view.  The trouble arises when Anna violates her student visa by staying the summer, an innocent mistake that creates a world of legal troubles for the couple.  She returns to London and the two are condemned to that agonizing oxymoron of an emotional state known as the “long-distance relationship.”

“Like Crazy” is preoccupied on every level by the relation between propinquity and distance, past and present.   When Jacob visits Anna and her parents (the charming Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston) in England, he feels the pressure of time since any long-distance affair is love on the clock.  Where Jacob and Anna eventually wind up, “Like Crazy” doesn’t ultimately tell us, and the lack of resolution after a final shower scene – reminiscent of a finer love story, similarly interested in alternative narratives, “Blue Valentine” – smacks of directionlessness.  Lacking a real ending, or even the suggestion of the couple’s fate, “Like Crazy” circles the drain in its final minutes, unsure of where it should flow.  Mr. Doremus’s romance is trying to break your heart, but it stymies more than it satisfies.