REVIEW: Crazy, Stupid, Love. [2011]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 118 minutes | Release Date: July 29th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director(s): Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Writer(s): Dan Fogelman

“Be better than the Gap”

Love can make you do stupid things. Love can drive you crazy. It can break your heart, make you better than you ever thought you could be, or be used as a reason to cling on when there is nothing left to hold. We seek it out, question whether it’s true, hope he or she feels the same, and pray that it’s enough. Even when we do something that should sever all bonds for eternity, somehow there is always a tiny miniscule thread with the strength to re-tether and help forget whatever it was that broke in the first place. Crazy, Stupid, Love. Three words we all know too well; three words ripe for comedy, tears, and acknowledgement. They’re funny because they’re true.

I think maybe Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have officially been extricated from my creative doghouse after writing Bad Santa. I’ll even forgive them for Cats & Dogs because that is how much I enjoyed their last film, I Love You Phillip Morris, and this one. Written by a contemporary Disney staple, (see Cars, Bolt, and Tangled), Dan Fogelman, Crazy, Stupid, Love. has a little bit of everything wrapped in its PG-13 package. A ton of heart—helped by the precociousness of a 13-year old boy—mixed with a range of laughs from laugh-out-loud to subtle perfection, accompanied by a dash of raunch, cursing, and Commandment breaking, simmered to a boil in order to form a dish much heartier than expected. With the subject of divorce can come tears, the topic of womanizing some laughs, and the central tale of family a knowing look into you. Marriage and parenthood are hard, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it.

Opening on Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily’s (Julianne Moore) break-up, we enter the end of their storybook affair. High school sweethearts and forever smitten, they’ve hit a wall. He has grown despondent and boring, she restless and introverted. Her bombshell of a declaration, ordered as dessert at a fancy restaurant—I think I want a divorce—may result from her admitted affair with coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), but the seeds had been sowed long before. No matter how angry Cal is, his silence and decision to exit a moving vehicle on the drive home good indicators, he is just as furious at himself for not having fought harder to break through the monotony. It’s a wake-up call to take stock and become reinvented. But while the film’s premise may skew towards him finding an unlikely life coach in bar tomcat Jacob (Ryan Gosling), resorting to objectification and copious amounts of one night stands, his transformation goes much deeper.

A lot of wisdom thrown his way comes from his young son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) who is in love with his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), graduating Middle School, and somehow taking the divorce of his parents in stride. He has such a belief in soul mates and true love that there is no reason to lament what is happening, in the end everything will work out. He will continue to make Jessica—a mere four years his senior, the gap between 13 and 17 much larger—uncomfortable with declarations of love and he will never lose hope his father will forgive and win back his wife. It won’t be easy because nothing about love is, but if he can transfer just a bit of optimism into Cal, maybe the task will appear less daunting.

Before this New Balance, suits two-sizes-too-big wearing, Supercuts coiffed middle-aged man can even begin to work up the courage and strength to try, though, he must ‘rediscover his lost manhood’. And no one is better equipped at this search than Jacob, a man who sweats confidence—if in fact he sweats—and has the game to bed a new woman each night, all by never talking about himself, feigning rapturous interest in any innocuous thing they have going for themselves, and channeling his inner-Swayze when the moment calls. In the film’s best segment, Jacob takes Cal shopping and for a crash course in picking up the ladies. Night upon night sitting in the background as girls fawn and fall, hook, line, and sinker for Jacob, the ideas and lessons permeate his brain and settle. Once the time is right, Marisa Tomei’s lonely teacher ready and willing to be plucked off her seat, Cal finds his game has always been there. He just never gave it the chance to come out and play.

But this is a romance dramedy at its core, so no matter how many laughs we achieve from Gosling smacking Carell in the face, berating his lameness, and almost screaming in frustration every time his new apprentice rips open a Velcro wallet, we know Cal can never give up on Emily. The revolving door of women cannot compare; the jealousy of what she did to him can never be solely her fault. Heartstrings will be tugged, and although I don’t think the filmmakers took any missteps in plot progression, this fact inevitably means pacing will drag. We can actually blame the comedy’s success as the main culprit for its length, the jokes hitting so fantastically that the quiet moments suffer from their lack of humor. So belly laughs alternate with real family drama as sweet moments like PG-rated nights usually reserved for R-rated escapades—Brookstone should enjoy the free plug through literal pillow talk—temper the middle portion chock full of pick-up lines, sleaze, and sex.

And while the main focus of Crazy, Stupid, Love. is Carell, his family’s parallel meandering through their own lives a welcome reprieve, there are a couple other characters worth mentioning. Gosling is a nobrainer and second billed despite getting less screen time than I anticipated. His emotional growth and hidden compassion beneath a layer of unbreakable shields is a nice addition to Carell’s psychological evolution. Both discover they deserve happiness and while it comforts Cal, it scares the hell out of Jacob. Luckily, though, he has the eye of Hannah (Emma Stone), a law student wallowing in the rigors of studying the Bar and a dorky, tool of a boyfriend—nicely played by Josh Groban. Refusing his advances early in the film, Stone’s character is seen working towards accepting her own needs for happiness, bringing all the loose threads together in a stunning reveal that makes the movie.

It’s by no means perfect, but it has the perfect amount of each ingredient to strive to be so. Superb acting all around—kudos Carell, Gosling, Stone, Bobo, and Tipton—witty dialogue at every turn, and the type of romance that straddles the line of acceptability well enough to forgive its many instances of falling over, Crazy, Stupid, Love. gets it mostly right. And, really, I think that’s what we all hope for where love is concerned.

[1] (L-r) RYAN GOSLING as Jacob and EMMA STONE as Hannah in Warner Bros. Pictures’ comedy “CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Ben Glass
[2] (L-r) KEVIN BACON as David Lindhagen, JOHN CARROLLL LYNCH as Bernie, RYAN GOSLING as Jacob and STEVE CARELL as Cal in Warner Bros. Pictures’ comedy “CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
[3] (L-r): ANALEIGH TIPTON as Jessica, JULIANNE MOORE as Emily and STEVE CARELL as Cal in Warner Bros. Pictures’ comedy ‘CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.’ a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

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