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Crazy, Stupid, Love.

August 1, 2011

Cinema has long had a knack for introducing viewers to unrealistic gestures and notions about love. Young women have been led to believe that a brawn yet perfect prince will magically sweep them off their feet or that through wacky circumstances true love will be the outcome. Film has even taught us that the good guy always gets the girl and in the end love conquers all and everyone goes home happy. Crazy, Stupid, Love reestablishes this very sentiment while also cleverly bending the rules enough to deny the stereotype, making it an interesting and entertaining slightly new breed of romantic comedy.

All the familiar symptoms of a quirky romantic comedy are present in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but there are pleasantly surprising and shocking moments with great character interaction that sets it apart from other Rom-Coms. After 25 years of marriage, Emily (Julianne Moore) blindsides her husband Cal (Steve Carell) by announcing that she wants a divorce. When not crying in the bathrooms at work or having slight mental break downs over what to do next, Cal drowns his sorrows at a local upscale bar pouring his anger and sorrow out to fellow strangers. He catches the ear of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), an attractive, smooth-talking ladies man who frequents the bar in order to bang the easily impressed single ladies. Initially disgusted by Cal’s self-pity, Jacob finds intrigue in him ultimately deciding to take Cal under his wing to make him an alluring ladies man who Emily won’t be able to resist.

The two embark on a Mr. Miyagi/Daniel-san relationship as Cal learns how to get his groove back and Jacob has to learn to deal with developing feelings of love when he falls for the smart, savvy, soon to be lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone). Meanwhile, Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie has fallen in love with his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica, who in turn finds herself falling for Cal. Relationships develop, heartbreak happens, and each character reaches a moment of sea change and clarity, that’s the normal typical part. However it’s how these characters get there that’s the interesting and refreshing part.

With a plot that depends so much on coincidence and serendipity, the only result is cheesy over the top moments and that’s definitely there in Crazy, Stupid, Love. For the first half of the film the plot is basically everything in the trailer, a few contrived lines and some deep emotional moments while also being incredibly self-aware of itself as a film—a concept that I’m realizing is common in movies made in the past few years. In one scene Hannah and Jacob discuss their plans on having sex to which Emma explains that she will go through with it to prove that her life is not PG-13 like her friend Liz assures her it is. Hannah tells Jacob that if their night were PG-13 then it would end with her passed out drunk and him pulling a sheet over her body before kissing her on the cheek. The self-awareness comes in remembering that Crazy, Stupid, Love is in fact PG-13 and the night sort of ends that way.

Nevertheless, despite its few clichés and bland moments, writer Dan Fogelman’s screenplay allows for surprising twists and revelations throughout. Characters are sharp and developed to a point where there is essentially no bad guy in the film. Some characters do despicable unforgivable things but they are given credence and reason for their actions creating empathy among viewers. The film may appear to be a full on romantic comedy but it’s more melodrama first and comedy second. Steve Carell is fantastic as a broken middle-aged man in love determined to reignite the spark within to get his wife back and Moore, as always, delivers a great performance as woman unsure of what she wants in life.

However, its Emma Stone’s knack for natural comedy and Ryan Gosling’s captivating screen presence that become the highlight of the film… and I’m not just saying that because of the crush I’ve had on Gosling for over a decade. He’s simply magnetizing on-screen whether it be his mere charisma or how directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa capture him in tight close-ups, slow motion shots and low angles emphasizing his strong features, beautiful eyes, sensual lips and effortless charm. But I digress, Gosling makes Jacob a believable yet likable playboy. Characters constantly question throughout the film if his brash and disrespectful ways of talking to women really work, to which in his own astonishment he repeatedly affirms that they do, thus giving an answer to the age-old question why do women like assholes? As Gosling shows in Crazy, Stupid, Love, it’s not the asshole behavior but instead the confidence and consistency that’s attractive but that’s an argument for a different day.

The chemistry between Gosling and Stone is wonderful to watch as the two play well off each other and deliver solid exceptional comedic performances; therefore leading to the film’s major flaw, its pacing. Crazy, Stupid, Love allows its best elements to sort of fall by the wayside as the film introduces great supporting characters like Hannah’s humorous strong-minded friend Liz (Liza Lapira), but doesn’t spend ample time on these characters, instead focusing on the main and at times underwhelming characters Emily, Cal and Robbie. Hannah and Jacob’s relationship starts the film but is quickly dropped almost immediately and isn’t picked back up until nearly half way in. Also certain elements of the film are rushed, such as Hannah’s career and relationship with her boyfriend Richard (Josh Groban) while other less important and developed elements are too drawn out.

Crazy, Stupid, Love isn’t perfect, some of the acting is bland and unimpressive and it wastes the talents of many of its actors and comedians. It even reminded me too much of the god awful melodrama The Squid and The Whale with elements of Knocked Up, however Crazy, Stupid, Love does a great job of holding its own and being original despite its familiar aspects. With a heavy emphasis on the notion of soul mates, those of us who’ve experienced the pains of being pure at heart will find that Crazy, Stupid, Love hits a deep chord and entertains while doing so.

SEE IT. But don’t rush, you can wait until it’s on Netflix Instant Stream.

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