“Like Crazy” Film Review

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Take away all of the special effects, big budgets and star studded casts…I don’t need them. Just give me love, heartbreak and some drama please.

The buzz for American Independent film “Like Crazy” directed by Drake Doremus is spreading around town and for good reason. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and Special Jury Prize Best Actress for Breakout Performance (Felicity Jones) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Like Crazy” stole my heart in its simplistic, beautiful style. The film has been rumored to have a budget around $250,000, improvised dialogue (technically, there was no screenplay) and the lead actress did her own hair and makeup for the film. “Like Crazy” follows the admirable line of Grand Jury Prize winners including “Precious” and “Winter’s Bone.” Hopefully, this will bring the film good luck as these films both went on to surpassing their estimated reach by bringing in an expansive audience and generating Academy Awards nominations and wins. Though I’m not sure if it can achieve that type of success, “Like Crazy” is one of this year’s most romantic films and should not be missed.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the film, “Like Crazy” stars Anton Yelchin, as Jacob, the American college student in love, and Felicity Jones, as Anna, the British exchange student. In a simple love story, girl meets boy, boy falls in love with girl, and they both live happily ever after. But when girl overstays her visa and is prohibited from returning to America to be with boy, drama ensues. Can Anna and Jacob make it work across countries or will time and distance ultimately pull their love apart?

Doremus could have made a cheesy movie, creating perfect moments for the young lovers, but I think he realized that falling in love for the first time is awkward and usually not perfect. He drew on his own past experiences to create the general outline for the film, speaking with the actors about the pain and bliss love can generate. In one of the sweetest lines of the play, Anna writes a letter to Jacob expressing her interest in him and demurely signs, “please don’t think I’m a nutcase.” The film captures the essence of love in all its states. So often in movies, audiences are only exposed to the first moments when the couple meet and fall in love and also the troubles that create the drama. In “Like Crazy” drama came, ultimately, from outside powers that forced the couple to reevaluate their relationship. I also thought the film was extremely realistic in that it didn’t hide anything. A large reason for this is attributed to the authenticity of the conversations between Anna and Jacob. The camera showed its audience the life led by Anna and Jacob when they weren’t together and how each of them handled their own situation. In one of the film’s finest cinematic moments, Jacob and Anna reunite after their years of struggles to try to rekindle their romance. As the shower water pounds on their bodies, their remarkable acting shines as the film goes to flashbacks of their past love and their current emotional distance in their close, physical encounter.

This film has the ability to impact millions. This film still resonates in my mind days after leaving the theater. This film hit so close to home for me, as I’d imagine it does for so many others. Even the little things, like Jacob’s attachment to his career in designing furniture and sharing his passion with Anna by creating a custom chair for her is emotional. When Anna receives a new chair from a boyfriend later on in the movie, the audience can sense the tension that Anna feels. The movie is about connections and how easily it is to feel lost and hopeless when the connection disappears. The film also is unique in its use of silence, which actually speaks volumes without a word uttered. However, some people are currently reacting negatively about the film’s simplistic form. I read some comments that reviewers thought it was a “boring movie about boring people”.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this movie takes its viewers back to their first love and heartbreak. We need to realize it’s okay to appreciate love in all its forms. This type of raw, real cinema is the type of films that I admire and I think should be as widely profitable and publicized as any other film.

Review: Jeff Storer’s intimate Middletown

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Even in Middletown, where ordinary residents craft static lives, you will find interesting characters paired with an intriguing story. Will Eno, who wrote the play currently in production at Manbites Dog Theater, exhibits the ability to transpose the lives of ordinary folk into a meaningful plotline. In a town with very little to do, Middletown residents have a lot of time to contemplate life and the cosmos: big dreams and aspirations are juxtaposed with sometimes harsh and sometimes subtle realities.

The play focuses on the developing relationship between neighbors Mary Swanson (Madeline Lambert) and John Dodge (Thaddaeus Edwards). Both characters are compelling to watch and their conversations stay engaging as they find some comfort in each other’s presence. Their neighboring houses lie upstage and the audience can peer into their lonely lifestyles through the windows. Winding through the main storyline, a series of vignettes showcase other residents’ encounters, giving the audience a deeper understanding of Middletown life through reflection, connection and irony.

Directed by Jeff Storer, Duke Theater Studies professor and artistic director of Manbites Dog, Middletown has an interactive style as the characters break the fourth wall and come alive in the audience right before intermission. The librarian (Duke Dance Professor Barbara Dickinson) and the local drunk Greg (Chris Burner) provide comic relief in their stories and interactions. Greg often harps on his childhood, delivering one of the many heart-wrenching lines in the play, “I was someone’s golden child.” Just like the rest of the residents, Greg looks back on his youth and wonders if he could have done something differently to affect his future.

The conversations heard in Middletown may ring a familiar bell. The townies explore the issues we are often too embarrassed to voice aloud, addressing questions about the purpose of life and what it would be like to die. Middletown stresses that no matter who we are or where we live, our lives are more interconnected than we may think. Its dynamic characters seem to ask one all-encompassing question: aren’t we all trying to find clarity in this complex world we live in? As the play suggests, we all experience the same road in the beginning and in the end, though each of us goes down different paths somewhere in between.