A film review by Craig J. Koban August 3, 2011
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE
2011, PG-13, 117 mins.
2011, PG-13, 117 mins.
Cal: Steve Carell /
Jessica: Analeigh Tipton /
Robbie: Jonah Bobo /
Molly: Joey King /
Claire: Beth Littleford /
Bernie: John Carroll Lynch /
If there is one element that separates CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE from most other recent middle-brow romcoms it would be how adeptly directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS) balance sweetness with cynicism, which in my mind is a really thorny dichotomy to pull off effectively.
saccharine and the film would have been intolerable and too jaded and
nihilistic and it would have been a depressing endurance test. Thankfully, CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE understands the trials and
tribulations of falling in and out of love (regardless of age or gender)
better than most tired, insipid, and routine romcoms.
Yet, it grasps for and nearly reaches greatness at times
only to hold itself victim to soap opera contrivances. Nonetheless,
the film is perceptive, moving, and insightful about romantic pathos.
yet is that it contains a rich treasure trove of actors that combine
to form a winning ensemble that keeps everything jubilantly afloat in the
film, even when the sometimes shoddy and convenient scripting sometimes
betrays their superlative work. We
meet Carl Weaver (Steve Carell) early on in the film and he is living the
proverbial good, middle-upper class suburban dream: he’s gainfully
employed, has a fairly luxurious home, and smart and well-rounded kids.
A wrench, so to speak, is quickly thrown into his cozy lifestyle
machine when his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore) abruptly announces to him in
front of many other restaurant patrons that she wants to leave him and
file for divorce. The reason?
She’s been sleeping with a coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin
Bacon), which leaves the befuddled and hurt Carl so speechless and upset
that he literally throws himself from the car on the bumpy ride home.
only choice is to leave his wife and home, so he sets himself up with an apartment and then proceeds to spend his
lonely nights at local pubs and bars, during which he pathetically and
drunkenly dispatches his laundry list of grievances to many annoyed fellow
drinkers. It is at this point
when he catches the attention of a young stud named Jacob Palmer (Ryan
Gosling) who is a textbook womanizer with just the right attitude,
clothes, ripped physique, and words to get any woman – and I do mean any
woman – into the sack with nearly the snap of his fingers.
Jacob’s habitual nocturnal quest to get laid and get laid often
is impeded by watching poor Carl drink his sorrows away.
He decides to intervene, take Carl under his tutelage, and give him
a crash course in Swinger’s Lifestyle 101 so that Carl can get his
confidence and self esteem back.
of course, is a sad sack and has very little experience with women, seeing
as he has only been with one woman, Emily, his entire life.
Nonetheless, Jacob considers it a challenge to makeover Carl into a
one-man heartbreaker to the single ladies, which starts awkwardly and then
materializes with successes. While
this is occurring the film also crosses the paths of other characters with
love pains of their own: Carl’s adolescent son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has
an unwavering crush on the much older family babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh
Tipton) whereas she, inconveniently enough, has her own obsessive crush on
Carl. Beyond this highly odd
love triangle, the story also introduces us to a career and independent
minded law student named Hannah (Emma Stone) that has had a previous
encounter with Jacob, but instantly brushed off his advances.
However, through chance and some deflating personal news, Hannah
finds herself drawn back to Jacob and the two begin a relationship during
which – gasp! – the once skirt chasing chauvinist finds himself
falling for the girl…and he’s not sure how to process his new feelings
of loyalty and monogamy.
it’s the film’s nice level of sobering melancholy mixed in with its
insights into romantic perplexity and uncertainty that really stands out,
which is greatly assisted by most of the actors.
Headliner Steve Carell may be one of the shrewdest and persuasive
actors for playing believably wounded, socially uncoordinated, and
vulnerable middle-aged men and he dexterously makes Carl both a funny and
pitiful creation. Then there
is the routinely great Julianne Moore as his wife, who has the really
tricky and thankless task of making Emily both an unsympathetic adulterer
and an emotionally troubled victim in her own way.
Emma Stone once again brings her luminously winning screen presence
to the table playing Hannah with her trademark confidence, intelligence,
low-key sex appeal, and understated comic timing (just watch how good she
is during a long, all-night seduction scene with Gosling’s Jacob, the
film’s highlight sequence). Even
the younger performers, Jonah Bobo and especially Analeigh Tipton, seem to
evoke a maturity and poise well beyond their years.
Gosling, however, utterly owns just about every minute he occupies in
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE as the cunningly groomed and tailored pick-up artist
that has his own world rocked by the onset of emotions he feels for
Stone’s Hannah. I have always considered Gosling to be one of the finest
performers of his generation and perhaps the heir apparent to Robert De
Niro. Those that question my
opinion need only to look at his remarkably varied and well chosen roles:
he gave Oscar caliber performances as a inner-city drug addicted teacher
in HALF NELSON, a socially stunted
introvert that befriended a sex doll in LARS
AND THE REAL GIRL, and in last year’s BLUE
VALENTINE he gave one of the most enthralling and mesmerizing performances ever as a young lover and married man that sees his marriage
slowly crumble before him. In
CRAZY, STUPID LOVE Gosling is a special type of double threat: he
demonstrates movie star bravado, magnetism, and charm while at the same
time relaying himself as an savvy student of performance craft.
He has to play Jacob as a hound on the prey, a sage-like Yoda figure to
Carl, and later a confused and doubtful man in love…and all while having
pitch perfect comic sensibilities. He
also miraculously makes Jacob simultaneously loathsome and likeable.
Yet, all the textured and well-delineated performances here are almost upstaged by the script’s oftentimes preposterous coincidences and mechanical revelations (especially in a beyond neat and woefully convenient third act, where all of the players come to a head). All of the keen relationship insight and human observation that the film maintained throughout is nearly capsized by the manner the conclusion opts for farcical and TV sitcom-worthy machinations, which also has the effect of making the already long film feel even longer. Performers like Bacon and Marisa Tomei (the latter who shows up as one of Carl’s one-night flings) are misused: Bacon never emerges as a fully formed character (but he at least never plays his role as the proverbial asshole home wreaker) and Tomei seems almost manically caffeinated playing a nymphomaniac. Furthermore, I guess that one of the underlining premises of the film - let’s take a down-on-his-luck schlub and make him over into an assured babe magnet – is not all that original. Uuuhhh, HITCH, anyone?
It’s too bad, because CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE had most of the requisite ingredients to make for a genre/game-changing romcom. To be fair, the film adroitly combines hearty laughs with carefully nuanced melodrama into a mixture that’s neither too unbearably condescending nor comically mawkish. I would aptly describe CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE as crazily amusing, sometimes stupidly conventional, but lovely for its endearingly soulful performances. Yeah, that sounds about right.