Instant Gratification Vol. 4: “Like Crazy” on Netflix

The problem with my Netflix queue these days is that it is populated with movies I only kind of have some interest in watching. I am well aware I am likely not going to like most of them, but they don’t seem wholly unappealing, so I add them to my list. Problem is, I can rarely work up the energy to watch them.

Instead, I rely on my friend Eric to pick a number 1-end of my queue in an attempt to get me to clear out some of the dreck.  Problem is, Eric is really bad at picking numbers, so most of the time I return 20 minutes later asking him to pick another movie because his first selection is unwatchable.

We decided to take another tact the other day similar to when I used to get my toddler nephew to pick a Derby winner.  I provided him the titles of all these movies he hasn’t heard of and he picked from them.

And that, kids, is the story of how Eric inadvertently recommended a really good movie.  I think he may have thought he was picking “Crazy, Stupid Love” with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, but in actuality, he picked “Like Crazy” a 2011 flick of the mumblecore variety staring Anton Yelchin (of “Star Trek” reboot fame), Felicity Jones, and the coolest girl in all the world, Jennifer Lawrence.

When you saw the word mumblecore, you probably had one of two reactions. Many of you probably went, “Zuh?”  What is this strange thing?  It sounds kind of porny…

Mumblecore is a genre of contemporary independent film.  Markers of these movies are largely improvised dialogues, super low budgets, and an emphasis on the naturalistic.  Think of it as a much more accessible version of Dogme 95 with more mainstream filmmaking and more accessible storylines rooted in the real and small scale.

Those of you familiar with the term might be doing what I typically do when I see it, which is roll my eyes and mutter something along the lines of, “Damned hipster Millenials.”  By and large, I don’t really dig mumblecore because I dig plot and relatively clipped pacing–things these movies are frequently missing.  Unsurprisingly, I found Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” pretty meaningless, boring, and stupid. And, as it involves Lena Dunham, I found it obnoxiously self-important to boot.

“Frances Ha” is another one I just can’t get behind, as twentysomethings who can’t get their shit together is something I got enough of when I was a twentysomething.  I find “Drinking Buddies” starts strong, but peters off around Act 3 and loses my interest.

So, if you are someone who feels like you should like mumblecore, but can’t seem to find one that rivals the almighty “Before Sunrise” trilogy, I offer you “Like Crazy”.  

This is a small scale love story that touches on several topics people can relate to in their own lives.  That all-consuming feeling of your first true love, the frustrations of wanting a relationship to work, but timing not being on your side, the time you stupidly try to see other people and still make it work.  Yet, while manyt other mumblecore movies find me rolling my eyes in annoyance at the obnoxious behavior of the twentysomething set, this movie manages to make the two leads fallible and remain endearing.

I will also say that the Jennifer Lawrence fans out there have to give this flick a watch just to be a completist.  She is only in about 20% of this movie, but every minute she is on screen, she completely steals the show.  Her performance as Yelchin’s other girlfriend adds a enitrely new complicated layer to this film that wouldn’t exist fi she wasn’t so appealing and believable.  In most romantic movies, the new girl is fine, but no comparison to the old girl. In this film though, you raise an eyebrow and wonder who he should be with, you wonder if this this is a tragic love story and not a happy ending.

The murkiness of this movie is what makes it stand out to me compared to other teenage love stories.  In this respect, the tendency of mumblecore flicks deal in the finer details works to film’s advantage tremendously.  This exploration of emotions, circumstance, and young love is enhanced by some great performances, as the entire cast is committed to making this movie and its core relationship work.

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