Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Unpredictable romantic comedy marries drama and a big-name cast for lovable results
Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone
It probably won’t appear this way on the movie theater marquee, so it’s worth noting the complete, correct title of Crazy, Stupid, Love. (two commas and a period). Although crazy and stupid often function as fitting adjectives to this thing we call love, the punctuation makes it clear that the three also work just fine as separate, stand-alone nouns. Happily, the new romantic comedy/drama offers up more than its fair share of craziness, stupidity and love.
The film is directed by the duo behind edgy comedies Bad Santa, Bad News Bears and I Love You Phillip Morris and written by the guy who gave us clever kiddie cartoons Cars and Tangled. An odd meet-up of minds, perhaps, but the result is something more than your average rom-com.
Steve Carell (fresh off “The Office”) moves to the front of the ensemble cast as Cal, a middle-aged, middle-class office drone whose marriage is dying of ennui. During another dull attempt at date night, wife Emily (Julianne Moore) unexpectedly asks for a divorce. Too benumbed himself to come up with a reasonable argument not to, Cal quietly moves out of the family house. A confession of infidelity on his wife’s part serves as the final nail in the marriage’s coffin, and Cal decides it’s way past time to sow his own wild oats. He tries hanging out at a trendy local singles bar, but that only serves to damage his already deflated ego. His sad-sack attempts at sexual congress do, however, attract the attentions of an idle-rich ladies’ man by the name of Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Jacob adopts Cal as a sort of pet project, acting as an expert wingman (a sexual “Mr. Miyagi,” as he puts it) and teaching him the ins and outs of cocktail-fuelled one-night stands.
Tanned, toned and tailored Jacob may seem like the bastard child of Tucker Max and that Mystery dude from VH1’s “The Pickup Artist,” but he’s secretly a romantic who can’t get one particular failed conquest out of his mind. Sexy but sensible Hannah (the increasingly indispensable Emma Stone) is studying for the bar and waiting for a marriage proposal from boring lawyer schmuck Richard (Josh Groban in a memorably bland cameo). Smooth-talking, Champagne-popping Jacob is pretty much the last thing on her “to do” list. While Cal polishes up his game, eventually sexing up the likes of suburban hottie Marisa Tomei, Jacob starts to lose his, pining for “the one that got away.”
It sounds like a simple comedy of role reversal, but Crazy, Stupid, Love. has got a lot more going for it. First of all, there’s the top-shelf cast. Carell can do wacky comedy (Evan Almighty, Get Smart, Dinner for Schmucks), but he’s at his best when offering up characters with a sad undercurrent (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life). Julianne Moore is, as always, an amazing actress. But it’s her ability to surprise that makes her such a valuable asset to any cast. Here, she could easily have been the villain of the piece. Instead, she crafts a realistic portrait of middle-aged confusion and discomfort that grounds the whole film in genuine heartbreak. Gosling, meanwhile, pokes knowing fun at his hunky persona, and Stone breathes personality into what could have been a thankless role. Even the cameos are standout, with Kevin Bacon reworking the smarmy, wife-stealing character he used in Super and Tomei making her every role feel like a comeback.
Of course, a great cast would be nothing without a great script, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. delivers one—fresh, hot and steaming. The elements are there for your standard-issue romantic comedy. And yet, the film frustrates expectations—wonderfully so—at almost every turn. In an age of raunchy, R-rated comedies (romantic comedies, even), Crazy, Stupid, Love. is refreshingly old-fashioned and character-driven. (A comedy without a single toilet-based joke? Why, it’s almost unheard of these days.) In addition to the romantic connections already discussed, there are entanglements involving a misguided teenage babysitter, Cal’s love-struck young son and a lecherous co-worker of Emily’s. It seems like a lot of plotlines, but they all revolve around the film’s central themes, and they all end up crashing into the same well-engineered heap by the third act. Unpredictability is the key to both the movie and the message. Crazy, Stupid, Love. is a funny, sad, sexy, touching and unexpectedly gentle reminder that sometimes we need punctuation to keep our crazy, our stupid and our love separate. ... And sometimes we need to toss the polite punctuation aside for a love that’s crazy, stupid and beautifully reckless, all at the same time.-