Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Review)

(7/29/11; Comedy, Drama)
Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Kevin Bacon, Julianna Guill, Josh Groban, Marisa Tomei
SCR: Dan Fogelman
DIR: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
MPAA: PG-13 for coarse humor, sexual content and language.
1 hour 58 mins
BOX: $78,568,802

Cal Weaver (Carell) is stunned to learn that Emily (Moore), his wife of 25 years, has slept with a co-worker (Bacon) and wants a divorce. Even though it appears their differences are due more to boredom than anything irreconcilable, they separate amicably.

Cal is completely unprepared for the dating world, eventually attracting the attention of Jacob (Gosling), a smooth-talking player frequenting the same splashy bar. Much of the comedy is derived from Jacob teaching the clueless Cal how to become a ladies man, and many of the beats will be familiar, especially if you’ve seen the trailer.

In keeping with the “fish out of water” theme, Jacob falls in love with the fetching Hannah (Stone), a law student as awkward at dating and mating as Cal, and find himself equally confused. But just when the movie threatens to swap the mentoring roles and become something cloying, the narrative pulls the rug out and heads down a side road.

There are many chuckles and a gut-buster or two to be had, as well as a whopper of a surprise I wouldn’t dare reveal. The naughtiest subplot concerns the Weavers’ babysitter Jessica (Tipton). Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Bobo) is madly in love with her (and, hilariously, has no filter) but Jessica has the hots for Cal, and plans to seduce him with naked pics. It’s enough to suggest the sex farce this might have become in more confident hands.

Considering how well R-rated comedies have performed, that would seem like a no-brainer. Ficarra and Requa also wrote and directed I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) and had a similarly difficult time finding a balance between reality and farce, here. The actors all give likable performances, strong and funny across the board. But in no way would these people ever exist and interact the way they do, unless it was in a movie.

And that’s fine. Funny doesn’t have to be even remotely believable, but it helps when the filmmakers can at least provide us with characters you’d believe would have a life when they are off-screen. It’s too bad, because Fogelman’s script is peppered with smart observations about the mating games men and women play at every stage in their relationships. It even argues that games are necessary, lest complacency set in.

Carell asserts himself in a full-bodied leading-man performance; Gosling plays one note for much of the film, but stays in character even when he becomes a softie. Stone may have the best comic timing of any young actress working today. Her line about Gosling’s physique looking Photoshopped is one of the best lines in the film, as is the spirited expletive that precedes it.

Oddly, it’s the second Emma Stone film, following Easy A (2010), to take swipes at both The Scarlet Letter and the star of its ill-fated 1995 remake, Demi Moore. Tomei is an absolute hoot as Carell’s first conquest, who appears later at a most awkward moment. What you get from this film will depend on your willingness to invest in it.

It’s funny, it’s touching, and it’s occasionally randy. But it’s also easily a half hour too long and packs too many laughs into the first half, while leaning on formulaic tropes a too heavily in the second. There’s even a point so calamitous that there seems no possible way any of these folks could come back from the edge, but that’s magic of Hollywood romantic comedies.

Logic be damned, everything will turn out okay. (Warner Bros.)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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