BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
OCTOBER 30, 2011
Drake Doremus is probably not a name with which you are familiar. Either was I until a few days ago. But Drake Doremus is the brilliant director of the independent film “Like Crazy,” which is now known for winning the Grand Jury Prize (as well as an acting award) at the 27th Sundance Film Festival.
“Like Crazy” follows two college students as they embark on their first true love. The couple, Jacob and Anna, played wonderfully by Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, fall in love and start spending every moment together. The plot may sound completely familiar, but the kicker comes when Anna, who is from London, overstays her student visa. Their relationship is strained and tested when Anna gets banned from entering the States.
From frame one, it is hard not to fall in love with these characters. Yelchin and Jones form the key to any engaging love story with chemistry that drives into the end scenes of the film. With only a fifty-page outline for a script, improvising all the dialogue, and shooting six straight days through four weeks, everyone involved in this film displays the best of their unique abilities in a way an audience rarely witnesses.
The supporting roles help the film develop even more profoundly, with Jennifer Lawrence bringing her lovable presence, following her highly acclaimed performance in “Winter’s Bone” to yet another Sundance-winning film. Her friendship with Yelchin outside of the film is the pivotal element for their heartbreaking chemistry on-screen. Also, Anna’s parents, played by Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead, bring subtle comedic aspects to the film and allow as a mirror for the emotions that the viewer most often feels. Even Charlie Bewley, as Simon, helps drive the viewer to emote exactly how Doremus wants. A film is only as good as its supporting players, and this film is ethereal on all levels.
Style and meaning exude from every frame of this film and each selected moment with this couple appears thoughtfully structured yet carelessly organic. The film’s framework and cinematography bring you closer to the couple, experiencing an almost voyeuristic view of this couple’s uphill battle to stay connected. Explained beautifully as “a constant look under the covers of a relationship,” both Doremus and Yelchin described the process of filming as very intimate, with the set consisting mainly of just the two actors and the director of photography, with Doremus “popping his head under the covers” every so often.
The camera was described as spontaneous, constantly filming (over 90 hours of footage), with the actors oblivious to when the camera was rolling. “Like Crazy” takes a step away from the standard Hollywood schematics and brings to life a painfully truthful and touching glimpse into a couple’s life. Just the sheer emotion experienced throughout the film is enough to make “Like Crazy” a longtime favorite. There is always something enriching about movies that evokes an entire spectrum of emotion in such a short period.
“Like Crazy” delivers in a way that causes you to leave the theater wanting more in the best possible ways. You feel like you have fallen in love and gone through the emotional struggle that the characters have endured, and, in my experience, you long to fall in love and feel these same emotions for yourself. Only a top-tier film could cause such a guttural response, making “Like Crazy” a film that will follow me throughout the ages.
Drake Doremus may be getting his feet on the ground as a director. Still, with his definitive style, huge improvisation background, and passion and intimacy with his actors (as well as his writing), he will bring a unique feel to all his future films. He will hopefully rub off any fellow independent directors following in his footsteps. Expect to see Doremus’ name shortly, with the Academy Awards just around the corner and “Like Crazy” proving to be a shoo-in for more awards.
October 28, 2011
Ben York Jones
(for sexual content and brief strong language)