Like Crazy is one of these films that speaks not to the heart, but the gut. In fact, the first 15 to 20 minutes are just turn-away, hide behind your beverage painful. No one wants to admit to remembering or laboring through these first moments, these blundering fragments of a love story. It's just awkward. There's a a distinct intimacy here, an intimacy that it feel's we've violated as an audience.
As we labor through the scenes we're not sure if we've stumbled upon or if we've been invited to, we're reminded that first loves are not the stories we once thought they were but merely a desperate, passionate category of images and feelings. Lacking a real story line, they surf on apparitions of hope and lust and everything that lies down in between.
The story starts with Anna, played by Felicity Jones, the perfectly lovable British girl who leaves a poetry-laden love note on the car of Jacob, played by Anton Yelchin. They quickly start a romance and we're not really given the birth and the blossom, just images. There are montages indeed, but somehow done well. They unfold not as they are really happening, but from the bank of someone's recollection. This is the way these stories are meant to be told.
Soon it's time for Anna to go back to England but she defers on her visa to stay the summer with Jacob; a summer seen only through hyper-sequences of images and mostly just body language -the most apt judge of young love. But then due to this impulsive love-choice Anna has deferred on her student visa and is no longer allowed into the United States. 1 Once images of entangled bodies, Anna and Jacob are now bodies apart. Soon there are other relationships, missed phone calls, separate time zones, different worlds, tearful attempts at phone calls, name mishaps, and just...life. And so the second book -the new testament -the real movie begins.
It's unraveling; a roller coaster of highs and lows, it's images, it's sickening, it makes your gut hurt. I read a review that said it was a bit like watching Blue Valentine, but without giving you the desire to cut your head off. I agree in a way, and given Blue Valentine was one of my favorite films of last year, I guess I should just go ahead and deem myself a movie-going masochist and move on. But something about Like Crazy felt inherently more painful to me. I'm sure many movie-goers could find a transient youthful adolescence or even a hopefully quality. I won't deny it's there, but it doesn't resonate as the part of the story that we are to carry away.
Classic tragic formula has taught us that plot is the "soul of tragedy". 2 The story usually involves a protagonist who is esteemed higher than the ordinary person, and this person is brought from happiness to misery by either a tragic flaw, or a dramatic turn of plot. Even the Romantic Tragedy assumes that there is a choice made by the protagonist's hamartia that eventually leads them to misery. A mistake, if you will; a stray from the good or normal, a mishap - your typical romantic comedy formula. There is an obstacle in this movie, but it's overcome. And when it is, we're still empty.
Like Crazy feels tragic, but represents a story separate from plot and choices. The characters are not heroic, in fact they are wonderfully ordinary. The plot is but a minor presence in this film. It's almost as if the director relies on us to attach to these images, and our nostalgia becomes the third character, the tragic plot twist. It's a play on memory and belief, and in the end there's just the space between the memory of what was and what will be. And that space hurts like crazy.
But even so, let it pour over you. Let it pour over you, like crazy.
And then, let it go...
"I thought I understood it. But I didn't. I knew the smudgeness of it. The eagerness of it. The Idea of it. Of you and me." - Like Crazy
1) And they say we're not strict enough on border control.
2) Thanks Aristotle, what would we do without Poetics?