Synopsis: Fortysomething Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) thinks his marriage is perfect, until his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce. Now Cal is single and looking for love with the help of expert ladykiller Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who gives Cal’s manhood a remarkable makeover. Amid inappropriate crushes and romantic encounters, Cal and Jacob discover that being a player without the right partner isn’t just crazy and stupid, it’s impossible!
Crazy, Stupid, Love. 7.25
eyelights: its stunning cast. its awkwardly funny dialogues
eyesores: its shmatlzy, insincere third act. its portrayal of male-female relations.
“I don’t know whether to help you or euthanize you.”
Honestly, I didn’t want to see ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’. Every time I went to the cinema, the stupid trailer played and it seemed so mundane and joyless that I couldn’t see its appeal.
Over time, however, I softened up. I hate to think that it’s because I was saturated with it that I eventually became curious, but ‘Date Night’, which also stars Steve Carell, sealed the deal; I enjoyed it enough that I felt I should give this one a chance. Still, I had some reservations: one of my closest friends watched it and had mixed feelings about it.
‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ is an okay movie. It starts off nicely with Cal and Emily Weaver unenthusiastically having dinner together at a restaurant. Together for the 20+ years, the life has long been sucked out of their relationship and she asks for a divorce. And then it gets worse: in response to his continued silence she fills the space with her blather.
And lets it slip out that she’d cheated on him.
This is not an atypical scene, but what makes it so delicious is the way that Steve Carell (Cal) and Julianne Moore (Emily) play their parts: Carell is able to play shmucky yet sympathetic and she is excellent at playing neurotic but endearing. Furthermore, the way Cal reacts to her admission and the awkwardness of the dialogues are quite amusing.
That was probably one of the most surprising parts of ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’: the dialogues, although not of Woody Allen or Albert Brooks caliber, were able to walk that fine line between discomfort and hilarity. Very nice. But it wouldn’t have worked if not for its main cast, which is completed by Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Jonah Bobo and Analeigh Tipton.
In the aftermath of that evening, Cal moves out and winds up drinking his sorrows away in a local meat market. Rambling to himself for all to hear, he eventually earns the pity of Jacob, a local pick up artist (Ryan Gosling), who proceeds to take him under his wing to help him rebuild his image and himself – pointing out he’d let himself go over the years.
And so begins Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ for dudes, as Jacob shows Cal the ropes, smooth-talking one woman after the next with Cal in tow. Eventually, Cal earns his wings and is left to try his newfound skills. He’s a hit, and soon thereafter he’s also picking up one young woman after the next. And yet… he’s still not happy and yearns to return to Emily.
Meanwhile, the family has to cope with the separation, with Emily diverting advances from the very colleague she’d cheated on Cal with, and their son, Robbie (Bobo), trying to motivate his father to fight for her. Further complicating matters is the fact that the babysitter has her eye on Cal, all the while Robbie is openly head over heels with her.
And what of Emma Stone? She initially pushed Jacob away but, after a disappointment in her current relationship (and after much peer pressure from her best friend), decides to bed him. This will change the course of both their lives in an altogether too predictable way, but which will have unexpected repercussions on the Weavers by the film’s end.
Really, if you’re going to watch ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’, it’s for the cast.
- Carell is excellent throughout and even sells his character despite his schleppy attire (which everyone mindboggingly fawns over) and the clichéd behaviours – especially at the end.
- Moore is totally convincing as someone going through a midlife crisis, who is troubled with these new feelings. Moore is always good at emotional conflict and she delivers here.
- Gosling is brilliant as the self-avowed tomcat, who is confident in himself and his skills and never fails. I bought it. And he even pulls off the predictable and rapid transition at the end.
- Emma Stone is always excellent. I don’t know why I don’t warm up to her because she plays down-to-earth and mildly neurotic very well. Anyway, she was perfectly cast here.
And it’s these qualities of hers that made it possible to believe that Hannah could actually short-circuit Jacob’s well-honed routine; I highly doubt that anyone else could have pulled it off.
- Bobo is almost a revelation as Robbie. He displays a terrific combination of sadness, sensitivity and intelligence. For a young actor, he’s actually quite good. Better than his peers.
- Tipton is also quite good as the babysitter, Jessica. She plays her earnest, nervous, and mildly awkward. I couldn’t help but empathize with her even though it felt more like a performance.
Even the secondary cast was excellent, with Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon both being as superb as ever.
The big failing of the picture comes in the third act, which unsurprisingly tries to dial it up by creating conflict that really has no reason for being. People react in ways that are totally irrational and clichéd, all to create an explosion of melodrama that only got me laughing at one point because it got so ridiculous – not because it was actually funny.
Instead, it was mostly pathetic – a sad spectacle, leading to a faux-sentimental ending (complete with a speech that is meant to tug at the heartstrings but only had me rolling my eyes because it felt so false). By that point, any goodwill I was willing to lend the picture was pretty much frittered away. Give me truth, not this BS Hollywood artifice.
It didn’t help that I disliked its portrayal of heterosexual male-female relationships, painting them as veritably shallow and predictable. As I watched these people go through the motions to pick each other up, I couldn’t help but wonder where the sapiophiles were in all of this. We exist. I’ve known many; we’re not such a rare breed. Or are we…?
If so, that would really be disheartening to know.
Ultimately, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ has its moments, and it certainly had potential. Had it not been bogged down by trite character and plot developments, it might have been a more memorable entry in the romantic dramedy genre. As it stands, however, it’s the cast that makes it. See it for them, not the material, and you might be satisfied.
Date of viewing: January 1, 2016