Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Starring Steve Carell, Juilanne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
Romantic comedies are garbage. Cinematic junk. The kind of films I generally avoid at all costs. There is so much wrong with romantic comedies because they embrace everything stupid and easy about love. At the same time, they embrace everything stupid and easy about movies. Guy meets girl, or girl meets guy; something prevents their fleshy, sweaty union from happening. Eventually, the clouds part and the happy couple is able to find a way to be together. They ride off into the sunset with some shitty pop playing as the credits start to roll. Usually by that point, I’m puking into a popcorn bag.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is the antithesis of the brain-dead romantic comedy. I’m reluctant to even call it a romantic comedy since the implication is so insulting. It’s arguably one of the defining films of the rom-com genre, which could easily sit beside the likes of “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
The story centers on a nice guy named Cal (Steve Carell) who discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) is not only cheating on him but now wants a divorce. This comes as quite a shock to Cal, and he takes it about as well as can be expected.
After moving out, Cal tries to get his groove back. This is no easy task. He dresses like a Sears catalog model and carries more baggage than a family of six going to Disney World. His luck changes when he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a stylish young ladies’ man who decides to take on Cal as a kind of charity case. He begins to teach Cal the ways of a lothario: new wardrobe, a new haircut and product, product, product! After Cal’s makeover, he slowly begins to regain his confidence. He finally learns how to move on but begins to question whether or not he wants to.
What I like about “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is the perspective from which it tells the story. The vast majority of the narrative falls to Steve Carell, who does such a great job playing Cal as both an extremely likable but extremely flawed individual. He makes mistakes, big mistakes. Like a lot of guys, he convinces himself that he requires some kind of grand transformation to be the kind of man he wants to be.
Cal’s love life is further complicated by the awkward crush his babysitter has developed, which is made even more cumbersome by the fact that she’s the same girl his teenage son has fallen for. Sure, the trappings of the genre still exist. There’s a lot of convenience in the story and how it unfolds. I suppose like any genre, it’s difficult to completely avoid redundancy, but ”Crazy, Stupid, Love.” manages to execute the material better. Take the secondary plot between the super suave Jacob and the neurotic new girl in his life, Hanna (Emma Stone). Hanna is a straight-laced girl who has admittedly lived a PG-13 kind of life. A chance encounter between she and Jacob turns into a night to remember. Jacob’s the kind of guy who can measure his relationships in hours. So, when he meets a girl who is more than the sum of her parts, he’s not quite sure what to do.
In a lesser film, this kind of serendipitous moment might have seemed insulting, but the excellent cast of actors makes the material work. Everyone in this movie comes across as likable and believable, even in the implausible scenarios that seem to pop up.
Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are fantastic. Emma Stone radiates cuteness at an almost toxic level. Ryan Gosling is about as charming as he’s ever been; he feels like a discovery here. After years of excellent performances in really depressing movies (“Half Nelson,” “Blue Valentine”), he finally has the chance to smile, have a good time and cut loose.
There’s a twist at the end of the second act that will make or break the movie for most people. Some people may find it contrived, while others will appreciate a surprise in a genre that hasn’t surprised anyone in a long time. Me, I fell for the whole film—hook, line and sinker. It’s a very grounded romantic comedy that focuses more on the awkward aftermath and uncomfortable beginnings of relationships rather than their inevitable conclusions.
Great writing, pitch-perfect direction, excellent performances and even a soundtrack worth mentioning. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that warranted mentioning the soundtrack. Everything about “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” feels natural, even in those embarrassing moments where most romantic comedies would suffocate an audience with saccharine. There’s a lighter touch going on here, not the kind of button-pushing manipulation found in most love stories. It is a great comedy, and at times, dare I say it? Heartwarming.