I don’t think I’ve seen anything lately quite like the ending of the 2011 Sundance Jury Prize winner Like Crazy. Spending time watching the rise and disintegration of a marriage, I wondered, is there really a moment when a romance ends? When the present becomes irretrievably the past?
If so, then we’ve already passed it, and tied no cloth around a tree to mark where we left the main road. The choices these two young people make – an American man and British woman, lovebirds at college, struggling with the ups and downs of love and immigration – are innocent, reasonable, and sympathetic. None of that helps as they stand there dripping wet, realizing that the past is over and it’s never going to return. There we are standing with them in a gently shocking moment of despair.
Browsing through some reviews of Like Crazy, I’m not sure all of the reviewers gather how sophisticated the film is. Some have treated Like Crazy as a typical romance, as if it is soapy schlock like The Time Traveler’s Wife or this week’s miserable rom-com. What’s being missed is that Like Crazy uses those common beats only so they can dig a trap door under them.
Aside from commenting on love and love stories, the Transatlantic back-and-forth raises questions about the effect of handheld communication upon the modern sense of intimacy. Decades ago, these two people would either lose touch or get married. Today, with a phone in every hand, I think Like Crazy is considering an interesting and fairly novel idea: that the ease of modern communication creates a false intimacy that tempts us to replace our present with a sentimental past.
No one can declare a performance a star-making performance, particularly before the release of the film. There are too many important variables. Like, for instance, whether or not people will pay money to watch you. So you won’t hear me say that about the emotionally fragile performance of Felicity Jones, a twenty-seven year-old stage actress of note. And yet if she does become a star–break in with a series of high-end performances, before we accuse her of selling out after a billion-dollar genre movie, and then re-gaining us with a speech at the Oscar podium that’s 20 minutes long–then Like Crazy will be the place that we see as the start.
One of my favorite back-cover blurbs for any book is the one that William S. Burroughs wrote for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange: “One of the few books I’ve been able to finish in the past few years.” I felt that way about Like Crazy. In truth, I finish every film. But how many films finish me?
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