- - Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ah, young love. There’s nothing more unbearable — except perhaps movies about it. Take “Like Crazy.” This moping indie romance wants viewers to think it’s a hard, honest portrayal of real love, or at least a great romance. It’s not. Instead, it’s a navel-gazing 90-minute ode to empty cinematic infatuation.

The trailer for this already overpraised artsy-fartsy irritant plays like a greatest-hits clip reel from every small-budget shaky-cam romance of the past two decades: a beautiful girl, a curly-haired boy, pop music, beaches, big cities, smiles, tears and lots of staring wistfully into each other’s eyes. The movie works more or less the same way.

The girl is a British exchange student with a literary bent named Anna (Felicity Jones). The boy is Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a shy classmate to whom she writes a lengthy note. They go on awkward dates. They mumble, look at their feet and talk about nothing in particular. Then the staring starts. There’s a montage or two. It must be love!

Which, in Hollywood, means it’s time to introduce complications: The summer after graduation, she chooses to overstay her student visa in order to be with him, and, consequently, she is barred from re-entering the U.S. after a brief visit home. Problematically, he can’t easily move to be with her in London because he already has a successful furniture-design business going in California. Impossibly in love. Impossibly apart. What will they do?

Better question: Who cares?

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones share "this thing" audiences are meant to see as young love in "Like Crazy," and of course, complications interfere. (Paramount Vantage via Associated Press)
Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones share “this thing” audiences are meant to ... more >

Jacob and Anna aren’t people; they’re beautiful, blandified Girl and Boy archetypes designed to embody some universal (at least for the Western upper middle class) ideal of intense romantic experience.

Sure, the movie graciously bestows each with a single individual creative interest — she’s a writer, he’s a furniture designer — but these are sideshows. They have no discernible inner lives outside their all-encompassing feelings about each other; the only thing they really are is In Love With Each Other.

The same goes for their relationship stresses. Real relationships, as anyone over the age of 19 knows, do not revolve exclusively or even mostly around gooey-eyed staring contests, declarations of love and holding hands on the beach at sunset. Instead, they tend to be far more pedestrian, as do their major stresses. But in addition to being impossibly good-looking, Anna and Jacob are blessed by not having to bother with the strain of banal day-to-day annoyances. They don’t have such unromantic troubles; instead, they have Things That Keep Them Apart.

Whatever it is they share, it hardly resembles what binds a typical relationship, at least if you’re judging by what the movie actually shows us. Like far too many movies purporting to be about romance, “Like Crazy” treats love as some mysterious and unknowable force, like a freak storm that overtakes a ship. It’s based on nothing and means nothing.

The movie is at least aware of this. Anna, a bit of a babbler, can never articulate even the most basic facts about their life together: She constantly refers to their relationship as “this thing we have,” as if it were some indescribable alien globule. At one point, they get married in an attempt to beat the immigration restrictions and vow “not to destroy this feeling we have.” That’s probably good thinking. A vague feeling is all they — and the movie — have.

★½

TITLE: “Like Crazy”

CREDITS: Directed by Drake Doremus, written by Mr. Doremus and Ben York Jones

RATING: PG-13 for hints of nudity, sexual situations, fake relationship arguments

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

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