I will cut to the chase. The problem with indie film du jour “Like Crazy” is the miscasting of its male lead, Anton Yelchin. Do not get me wrong: I am not saying that Yelchin is a bad actor; he is just not right for the romantic lead in this particular story. Yelchin plays opposite Felicity Jones, who plays Anna. Anna is a college student from England, living in Los Angeles. One day Anna puts a note on the car of Jacob (Yelchin’s character), a teaching assistant in a class that she is taking. The relationship progresses from there.
Perhaps it is an issue of balance. Jones is strikingly adorable and charming, and Yelchin, well, is not. He is a bit of a nebbish, which is fine, but not a charismatic one. For example, an actor like Jesse Eisenberg, who has made a career out of playing nebbishy types, could have hit this one out of the park. Someone of Eisenberg’s caliber would have given Jacob characteristics that would make it believable that he would appeal to a girl like Anna.
“Like Crazy” is a movie about feelings and, to that end, my feeling was one of puzzlement because I could not understand why a girl like Anna would be interested in Jacob. I found Jacob to be wooden and had little sympathy for him. I spent much of the film wondering, “What does she see in him?”
The problem here is not just with Yelchin, but in how Jacob’s character has been written. While Anna’s is a fairly well rounded character, Jacob’s is less so. We see that Anna has a background, a life before the story started, something very important to building a character’s credibility. For example, we see Anna’s parents, nicely played by Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston, and her relationship with them. In contrast all we know about Jacob is that he designs furniture and that his father died when he was ten.
The film’s central conflict is that Jacob and Anna have to negotiate the vicissitudes of a long distance relationship. Will she move to Los Angeles? Will he move to England? Will either, or both, find other partners?
“Like Crazy” uses heavy-handed symbolism. Anna breaks a bracelet given to her by Jacob, that has the word “patience” spelled out, during a tryst with a new lover. The same lover gives Anna a new chair, relegating a chair Jacob made for her to the closet.
‘Like Crazy” certainly had the potential to be an interesting study of a relationship, perhaps on the level of a film like “Blue Valentine” (2010). I think with greater attention to its writing and casting it might have achieved more.
Like Crazy, Director Drake Doremus, 2011, Paramount Vantage 90 minutes, PG-13