“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a film that fits squarely into standard romantic-comedy formula, yet still manages to feel like a vibrant, pulsating slice of life. Given that so many films aspire to this and fail, I think that might make “Crazy, Stupid, Love” something truly great. I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got a feeling about this one.
Steve Carell is Cal Weaver, a seemingly successful family man whose 25 years of marriage all crumble to nothing when his wife, played by Julianne Moore, announces that she has cheated on him. Immediately filing for divorce, Cal finds refuge both in raising his kids and in frequenting a local bar. There he meets Jacob, played by with an impeccable fluidity and smoothness by Ryan Gosling. Jacob, given his smooth demeanor and impeccable looks (it must be the name), knows a thing or two about women and projecting himself to them. Jacob takes Cal under his wing, renovating his wardrobe, reinvigorating his confidence, and digging him out of his mid-life crisis.
All the while, Jacob weighs giving up his womanizing tendencies for the sweet, intelligent Hannah. Hannah is played by Emma Stone, who, it’s worth noting, gets exponentially cuter as her career goes on.
Large focus is given to Cal’s middle-schooler son, Robbie, who pines for his older babysitter Jessica. The only problem with that is, Jessica pines for Robbie’s own father, who is totally oblivious to her affections. Did I mention yet that Julianne Moore’s character is pursuing her co-worker, played by Kevin Bacon? Yeah, Bacon’s in yet another villainous role, the difference being that here he’s a smug creep as opposed to his cold-hearted murderer in the recent “X-Men” reboot.
Consider how many films fail at portraying just one romantic plot line. Now picture one that succeeds at satisfyingly delivering four.
It’s a true compliment when I say that for the duration, I had entirely forgotten that these are all A-list, multi-millionaire movie-stars. Their screen personas are all built upon, retaining the charm yet never forsaking the characterizations the film builds. What I’m trying to say is, Ryan Gosling is just as charming here as you’d expect out of Ryan Gosling, but during the film, you never notice that he IS Ryan Gosling. Messily structured sentence, but you get the point, no?
Carell and Moore as a couple, divorced or not, click together exceptionally well. It’s a great pairing because both are so good at projecting warmth and glow in their characters, which makes their moments together sting all the more. Emma Stone is excellent, but then again I’m a bit biased. You know how everyone has that one massive celebrity crush? She’s mine.
Dan Fogelman’s script pulls off the masterful juggling act of balancing everyone’s arcs and problems, tying them all together in a satisfying if not entirely hopeful way. The film is structured interestingly, saving one absolutely massive surprise until the last 20 minutes or so. Who knew romantic comedies’ plot twists could be just as shocking as one in, say, a mystery-thriller?
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a work that truly explores love from various perspectives, one as interesting as the next — newly blossoming love, unreturned love, dying love, lasting love. It’s smart enough not to condescend to its viewers and open enough to share its wounds with them. A-