Felicity Jones: New Sundance “It” Girl?

Emerging from the tent that leads to the Eccles Theater, the huddled masses are greeted with a snowstorm that they’d hoped had already passed, but it’s a mercifully short walk to the auditorium. Still, it’s hard not to be nervous about what kind of landscape may await us when we emerge from “Like Crazy,” the new film from Drake Doremus.

Drake Doremus earned praise at least year’s festival for his debut effort, the dark road comedy “Douchebag,” but the writer-director has returned with a very different film. “Like Crazy” stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a young couple kept apart by an ocean and some visa troubles. For Jones, this year's festival may be her grand coming out party.

As soon as the screening ended, it seems, Jones found herself in a pitched battle for this year’s “it” girl title with “Martha Marcy May Marlene” star Elizabeth Olsen, if the New York and Los Angeles Times are to be believed.

“She actually put together a tape in her apartment where she did the shower scene—she actually got into the shower and shot herself doing the scene and it was magnificent…” explained Doremus when asked how he’d come to cast the rising young star. “I saw that scene and cast her right away—well, that’s not why…She, yeah, it was fantastic.”

"Like Crazy" is a powerful and beautifully told love story, that’s smart enough not to offer any easy answers or pat solutions. Throughout, Doremus does a nice job of conveying a great deal of emotion and action without a great deal of dialogue, thanks to some fine editing and a beautiful score by Dustin O’Halloran. The film’s shorthand allows for a far greater arc than you might normally get from an 89-minute film.

One of the film’s other strengths is the dialogue, which has a naturalistic feel to it, the product of hours and hours of workshopping.
“The movie is mostly improvised from a 50-page outline that Ben (York Jones) and I wrote together. It was a lot like ‘Douchebag,’ where we get really specific in the outline and then these wonderful actors bring it to life. I guided it and rehearsed it a lot and you sort of find the beats of the story. Felicity and Anton especially really trusted me and delved into it and did an amazing job improvising.

“We spent about 10 days, 14 hours a day, just sort of going through the moments, and talking a lot. The key was to just get an idea of it and then, on set, really find it. I didn’t want to find it in rehearsal, so the moment would just be in the zone on set, so we would capture it perfectly. Just trying to find it,” at which point Doremus looks over his shoulder at his two stars—“you guys wanna talk about the process and how mad at me you were?”

The question is met with looks of horror and furiously shaking heads from Jones and Yelchin.

“Like Crazy” is showing in competition in the U.S. Dramatic section at this year’s festival.

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