Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid Love

Crazy, Stupid Love ***
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.
Written by: Dan Fogelman.
Starring: Steve Carell (Cal), Ryan Gosling (Jacob), Julianne Moore (Emily), Emma Stone (Hannah), Analeigh Tipton (Jessica), Jonah Bobo (Robbie), Joey King (Molly), Marisa Tomei (Kate), Beth Littleford (Claire), John Carroll Lynch (Bernie), Kevin Bacon (David Lindhagen), Liza Lapira (Liz),  Josh Groban (Richard).

There are some movies in which the performances save the entire film. Crazy, Stupid Love is one of those films. I have made no secret in the past for my disdain for most modern, romantic comedies, which bring nothing new or exciting to the genre that once produced great films. Crazy, Stupid Love is another of them that really doesn’t bring anything new to the table either – and in the film’s final act, it goes wildly over the top and threatens to derail the whole movie. And yet, I liked it. And the reasons why is liked it are mainly Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, who take standard issue roles, and make them once again interesting, entertaining and unique. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Carell plays Cal, who has been married to Emily (Julianne Moore) for nearly 25 years, but is seeing that marriage collapse in front of his eyes. Emily informs him that she wants a divorce. She had a one night stand with a co-worker – the hatred David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) – and doesn’t know how she feels about anything right now. So Cal, packs his stuff and movies out – much to the chagrin of his two kids, especially 13 year old Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who idolizes his father and through his parents, believes in true love. Especially, with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who although she is 5 years older, he believes he can get. And who in turn, has an irrational crush on Cal. Cal spends his new found freedom, sitting in a bar, drinking vodka and cranberry juice, and talking about David Lindhagen. This is where he meets Jacob (Gosling), a ladykiller who takes pity on him, and teaches him how to be just like him. Jacob takes a new woman home every night, but when he meets Hannah (Emma Stone), he thinks it may be different. This could be the girl for him.

Carell is one of the most likable actors working right now. That was the major difference between his version of the asshole boss on The Office, and Ricky Gervais’ in the original British version. You really did hate Gervais’ boss, where as with Carell’s, you almost felt sorry for his complete cluelessness. Here, he plays a guy who got married young, and doesn’t know what to do when his wife leaves him. That he chooses precisely the thing he shouldn’t – which is to go ahead and sleep with any woman that will have him – should make him into an asshole, and yet in Carell’s hands it doesn’t. You feel for this guy who is heartbroken and acting out, even as you know what he is doing is wrong. It’s somewhat similar with Gosling’s Jacob, who we should hate as a sleazy womanizer. And yet, even from the start we don’t. He may use women as objects, but he doesn’t view them as such. He truly does seem to love women – he just doesn’t know how to be in love with one. To a lesser extent, the same can be said about Julianne Moore’s Emily – who after all, caused the divorce with her affair. While Cal certainly isn’t behaving like a rational adult, the truth is, he isn’t really doing anything that wrong. His wife left him before he starting sleeping around, whereas she betrayed him while they were married. Yet once again, Moore turns this character into a sympathetic one, instead of one that invites the audience’s wrath – like most cheaters. It’s in their portrayal of these three characters, who normally we would view as sleazy, that the movie won me over.

The point of the movie, I think, is to show just how irrational love is. Cal, Jacob and Emily are no better equipped to deal with their problems than either Robbie or Jessica, who are supposed to act like crazy, irrational teenagers, because they are. But we expect adults to be better able to deal with these problems – but they aren’t. We’re all blindly searching for love, and making asses of ourselves, no matter how old we are.

Crazy, Stupid Love is not without its problems. As I mentioned before, the final act goes over the top, with a fight sequence that simply isn’t as funny as it was supposed to be, and of course, a big public speech that solves everything. And the film essentially wastes the enormous comic talent of Emma Stone, who isn’t given much interesting to do. Yet, I couldn’t help but like Crazy, Stupid Love. Along with last week’s Friends with Benefits, it gives me hope for the romantic comedy genre.

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