Long-distance letdown: Like Crazy 

*Like Crazy (PG-13)

Kimball's Peak Three

The Treacle Alert for Like Crazy reaches code-red status from nearly the moment the film pops on screen. After a brief classroom scene at a Los Angeles college during which a student named Anna (Felicity Jones) reads from a poetically winning essay, we see her slide a note under a classmate's windshield wiper. It's more of a manifesto, actually, taking up multiple pages and ending with her phone number and the entreaty, "Please don't think I'm a nutcase." The object of her affection, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), doesn't, and in fact seems awestruck at the gesture.

Soon they're getting to know each other and, even more quickly, they're inseparable. Writer-director Drake Doremus lets this play out in not the freshest of ways, with a few having-fun! montages (go-karts, the standard frolicking on the beach) interspersed with lots of smooching, drinking, and ultimately the declaration that they love each other "like crazy," a phrase that wannabe-carpenter Jacob carves into a chair he makes for the furniture-deficient Anna.

So where does the film (co-written by Ben York Jones, who also has a small role) go from here? That's what makes Like Crazy a bit different from your typical romance. Anna is British and only in the U.S. on a student visa; when summer comes and her time in the States is up, she decides to ignore the deadline to stay with Jacob. (Cue staying-in-bed montage.)

Eventually she does return home, with the intention of coming back to L.A. as soon as possible. Her breach, however, disrupts those plans, and the bulk of the film wrenchingly shows how red tape can strip the bloom off of red roses.

Your tolerance for gooeyness aside, Doremus does accurately capture the twinkle and inadvertent stupidity of young love. Although Yelchin, not the handsomest of leading men with bug eyes and receding poodle hair, inspires a bit of is-she-really-going-out-with-him? disbelief, he and the painfully pretty Jones exude a warmth together that's undeniable. (Expect the lass, primarily known in Britain, to continue shining in more Stateside roles.)

And when they fight, it's even more believable — you'll wince at every awkward text exchange or heated battle that unexpectedly erupts in the middle of them trying, so hard, to have a good time. One excruciating scene takes place in Anna's tiny kitchen as she's cooking dinner after a less-than-successful date; niggling turns to sarcasm turns to yelling, and you feel the twisted stomachs as each of them try desperately not to give in to the inevitable moment when someone has to throw in the towel.

Much of this realism is in no doubt thanks to the fact that the dialogue was improvised, with both actors coming off as charming, clever and vulnerable, but just less than scriptedly so.

The story, therefore, is ultimately about the daddy of long-distance relationships, as Jacob and Anna try to hold on to their intimacy while way too often communicating across the pond. There are alternately chilly periods and re-ignition of the flame; happy dalliances with others and crushing loneliness and dissatisfaction with their temporary lives.

The final scene — if you don't want it ruined for you, stop reading here — is open-ended. But instead of being bugged by the question mark, you'll be right with the characters, anxiously wondering where they'll go from there.


Film Details

Like Crazy
Rated PG-13 · 89 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.likecrazy.com
Director: Drake Doremus
Writer: Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones
Cast: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Chris Messina, Alex Kingston, Jennifer Lawrence, Finola Hughes, Charlie Bewley, Jamie Thomas King, Oliver Muirhead and Ben York Jones

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