Like Crazy, which hits the silver screen October 28, is a strange, delightful experiment in filmmaking.
Co-written and directed by relative newcomer Drake Doremus, the film worked off a script that was mostly outline, leaving the dialogue to be filled in with extensive in-character improvisation by stars Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Fright Night) and Felicity Jones (The Tempest, Northanger Abbey).
What they produced was a film that not only took the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, but has continued to be lauded by critics as a strikingly, unflinchingly realistic portrayal of young love.
The story follows British student Anna (Jones), who meets and falls in love with Jacob (Yelchin) while going to college in California. When she graduates, the couple faces separation, and Anna overstays her student visa to spend just a few more months in town (told in a rapid montage of images of the two in bed).
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The premise may sound grim, but the visuals are so colorful and complex (their first date is at a coffee shop, in which they are never in frame together, but conversing as two halves of the same image) that you may find yourself grinning at inappropriate times.
Even when the film is heartbreaking - and it often is - it exudes incredible warmth.
Dialogue is another star of the film, all the more impressive considering the amount of improvisation by the actors.
Stars Yelchin and Jones, who were in town last month for the opening night premiere of Like Crazy at the 11th Annual Scottsdale Film Festival, were surprisingly reserved and introspective at an afternoon Q&A at ASU.
Discussing film history and the film noir genre, Yelchin mentioned "ideology," while Jones was quick to name Danish director Lars von Trier as a major inspiration (Yelchin agreed). The often-controversial von Trier (The Tree of Life, Antichrist) was in the news this summer for being banned from Cannes after comments he made about understanding Hitler.
But von Trier's films - maybe like his own star persona - are filled with layers of meaning, simultaneously offering and withholding, and inviting the viewer to find his or her own meaning within the collision of shots. And this is what Like Crazy does so well: It withholds meaning, quietly denies any kind of three-pronged thesis statement that will open and close the narrative, and instead leaves you with the opportunity to search, reinterpret, and redefine.