Crazy Stupid Love was Steve Carell’s first film after leaving the NBC TV show The Office. He had been on for 7 seasons. Already a movie star of considerable success, this ensemble piece also starred Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The cast must’ve helped because this was the 2nd biggest romantic comedy for the year and deservedly so.. (The Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It was #1) The complementary copy I received from Warner Bros. doesn’t have any extras out of the ordinary: the standard deleted scenes and a couple of info shorts. But that’s ok, the picture stands on its own.
Cal Weaver unexpectedly finds himself single after 25 years of marriage. Miserable and depressed he starts drinking at the local pub. There he meets an assertive ladies man who attempts to give him advice on how to turn his life around. That’s the plot in a nutshell, but this ensemble piece is actually much more complex than that. Lively script juggles multiple storylines and characters to deliver a pretty satisfying take on dysfunctional love in 2011.
What causes a romantic comedy to truly triumph is sincerity. You can make all the flippant and racy jokes you want, but if there isn’t some basis in honest emotion, the drama will ring hollow. 2011 has seen several of these: No Strings Attached, Just Go With It, Something Borrowed, Friends With Benefits. Hollywood appears to be churning them out faster than two polar opposites can fall in love. Obviously romantic comedies have been around since movies were invented, but they seem to have quadrupled in output in the last two decades. I blame the modern trend on Pretty Woman. I admit that was a landmark film, a classic of the contemporary genre. But in trying to chase its success, the entertainment industry has spit out soulless product at a dizzying pace since. Many of those substandard pictures have still been blockbusters. The good new is, Crazy, Stupid, Love is above average and downright enchanting in spots.
Amusing drama features a dream cast which includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The stars exhibit genuine chemistry together. Steve is amiably pathetic as the dejected husband. Ryan is equal parts suave and smarmy as “teacher” in the ways of love. Emma radiates sweetness in her relationship with Ryan as Jacob. They’re believable despite the clichéd trajectory their romance follows. (Jacob as a character bears more than a passing resemblance to Will Smith’s role in Hitch) I must also mention Marisa who I found to be her typical effervescent self. Her part is very small here, but she has such a damaged likeability to her, like a helpless little bird that suddenly unleashes her talons. She is an asset in every movie she graces. Like Michele Pfeiffer, she seems to grow more and more beautiful with every passing year. Incidentally, that’s her leg in the Graduate evocative pose on the movie poster.
Crazy, Stupid, Love ultimately does a good job at balancing funny jokes with sensitive drama. There is a wonderful climax that takes place at Cal and Emily’s home. It’s one of those, “Wait, does that really make sense?!” moments. I’ve rethought the narrative in my head and I think it does, but it’s a bit of a surprise and I’m usually not easily surprised in these types of flicks. Unfortunately there is an 11th hour “second climax” at their son’s graduation ceremony that almost undoes all the wit of that earlier high point. If not for that lapse, Crazy, Stupid, Love would have gotten 4 stars.