© 2011 Ray Wong
When it comes to love, I think all of us can attest that it is indeed crazy and stupid, one of the most perplexed, inexplicable and complicated things in life. Steve Carell's latest romantic comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love, gives that topic another spin.
Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) are getting a divorce. Emily confesses of having slept with her coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) because she feels she and Cal have drifted apart. Cal immediately becomes withdrawn and self-pitying. A stranger at a bar, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), comes to the rescue. Jacob is a master womanizer, and he agrees to help Cal comes to his senses and rediscover his "manhood" so his wife will realize how sorry she is for cheating on him.
Meanwhile, Cal is trying to manage his relationship with his two young children Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and Molly (Joey King). Robbie is a pubescent boy in love with his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is in love with Cal. And Emily is trying to sort out her feelings: Does she want Cal back, or does she want to pursue a future with David?
While Cal finally rediscovers his inner manhood and confidence, he realizes sleeping with random women really isn't who he is, because he is still in love with Emily. Despite everything, she is his soulmate. At the same time, Jacob meets the woman of his dream, Hannah (Emma Stone), who changes him. He asks Cal for advice. The two men suddenly find themselves trading places, and the result points to something disastrous.
Steve Carell (Dinner for Schmuck) has had a few hits (Get Smart, Despicable Me, The 40 Year Old Virgin) and a few duds (Date Night, Evan Almighty), but he's always had a knack for playing the everyday lovesick man. Carell finds his stride in the role of Cal. He can play the schmuck just fine, but he can also be sassy and charming, a real romantic lead. It's a difficult to pull off, but Carell does a fine job.
Ryan Gosling (Drive) sheds his broody onscreen persona for the role of Jacob, the player. He is attractive, sexy, and charismatic. But deep down you know there's a soulful guy in there, and we're not disappointed. It's perfect casting. Emma Stone (Easy A) is amazing as Hannah. It's simply a pleasure to watch her. Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) is very good as Emily, but I feel that her ability has been somewhat stifled in a less sympathetic role (playing the adulterer is always a risky choice).
Analeigh Tipton (The Green Hornet) is hilarious as the lovesick babysitter pining for a married older man. She gets that nervous, giggly, anxious and crazy puppy love just right. Jonah Bobo (Choke) displays tremendous confidence as a kid who knows what he wants and goes for it. There are other notable performances including Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler) as a crazy school teacher, and Kevin Bacon (X-Men: First Class) as Emily's coworker/love interest.
The screenplay by Dan Fogelman, who is best known for his family movies such as Tangled, Bolt and Cars, delves into more adult materials here including adultery, teen lust, and sexual conquests. But at the core, Fogelman tackles the most difficult subject of all: the crazy, stupid nature of love. What is love? And why is it so powerful despite everything our brains tell us? What is love that makes a wife cheat, or a husband forgive, an independent woman melt and giggle uncontrollably, or a playboy turn into goo? Fogelman also approaches the story from two different points of view: adult's and teen's. It is through his teenage son's more pure and unbridled passion that Cal rediscovers what he is all about.
The plot is well put together with multiple subplots, character arcs, and a good dose of humor mixed with true emotions. The dialogue is fresh, and the characters are all very likable. There is no villain in this movie, which is refreshing. That said, the plot can be contrived and manipulative. The biggest problem comes during a climactic twist -- Fogelman's use of misdirection and coincidence comes to a head and I have a hard time believing what just happened. Granted, he skillfully and masterfully constructed the whole situation, but that's it: it feels artificial and too carefully constructed, and further exposes the implausibility of all the coincidences. Which is just too bad because the script is otherwise very well written, allowing the actors to fully develop their characters who have real emotional lives.
Co-directors Glenn Ficarra (I Love You Phillip Morris) and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) have a good handle on quirky characters. They successfully move the plot along smoothly and weave the multiple plot threads together. Sometimes, however, the story seems out of focus somewhat because there are too many characters to follow. We know everything is going to come together, but it is still rather distracting. The production is professional and the movie is well made, however.
I thoroughly enjoy and am touched by the movie, despite its major flaws and my uneasy feeling that I'm being manipulated. When it comes to matters of the heart, you either love it or hate it, and nobody likes to feel manipulated to feel certain way. So it's tight rope to traverse. I think by and large the filmmakers did a good job. It remains to be seen if audiences would be crazy, stupid enough to love it.
Stars: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Joey King, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for coarse humor, sexual content and language
Running Time: 118 minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 8
Total – 7.8 out of 10