Mark Reviews Movies

Crazy, Stupid, Love.


3 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for coarse humor, sexual content and language)

Running Time: 1:58

Release Date: 7/29/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 28, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. cuts right to the chase. The camera flashes across the caressing feet of couples in a restaurant until it lands on two pairs that are firmly planted below their owners. It pans up to a married couple talking in monotone on what the husband thinks is the subject of dessert, and just as he's expecting to hear what the wife wants for a post-meal treat, she announces she wants a divorce.

At a bar, a ladies' man approaches a young woman. He tosses her a line; she calls him on it. He jokes about the fact that she catches that it is indeed a line; she walks out with her friend. For once, a woman he approaches does not leave the bar with him.

At the aforementioned couple's home, a babysitter picks up a photo of the two and covers up the wife's image. Their son comes downstairs and proclaims to the babysitter that he loves her (After she caught him alone in his room with the lights off in a very personal moment, though he insists he only thinks of her in such times).

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman sums up just about everything we need to know about these characters and their situations. From there, it simply lets them move around in this closely interconnected, form new bonds, make mistakes, and grow from the entire process. Sure, Fogelman and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa telegraph every step to us from the onset and with each new development, and, yes, there are inevitable complications. If the film is almost too optimistic about its outlook on rough waters of love, it is so only because the characters, and not the movie itself, wear rose-tinted glasses. It's an important distinction but one that at least understands love is what people make of it.

The couple is Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore). She wonders if she's going through a midlife crisis (She can't help but think that maybe the movies are omitting the female side of this, which is an ironic observation considering this one barely touches upon her character except in her relationship to her husband). Maybe that's why she had an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon).

After moving into his own place, Cal starts frequenting a bar, where he can't help but talk about his failed marriage and his wife's fling. Jacob (Ryan Gosling), the philandering guy whose success rate at picking up women is much higher than our first introduction to him, overhears it all and one night calls Cal over to the table. He has an offer: He'll teach him how to dress, wear his hair, and succeed at flirting with women.

It works, and soon enough Cal is bringing women back to his place. Meanwhile, in what might be one subplot too many, his son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is sending multiple text messages to his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) to her growing consternation, and she is trying to develop her own plan to win over her favorite employer. Emily and the co-worker start talking a bit more, and Hannah (Emma Stone), the woman whom Jacob failed to woo when we first met him, is studying to pass the bar exam and hoping that her boyfriend (Josh Groban) might pop the question when she passes.

For all their flaws, these are inherently decent, likeable people. Cal is a one-woman man, until he feels the primal urge to take control of his feelings of emasculation.  Jacob is too charming and honest about his intentions to be labeled as predatory in his womanizing (Gosling stands out in a fine ensemble in balancing the character that way), and even his lessons are less about the objectification of women than helping a guy struggling in the only way Jacob knows how. There might be a lack of strong female characters here (Whatever feelings may have driven Emily to cheat on Cal are left behind to turn her into a character who cries alone at night, though the scene in which she confronts Cal's own nighttime activities is played with proper disappointment), but once Hannah and Jacob finally meet up again, Fogelman turns the tables, leaving her to objectify him as "the hot guy from the bar" (The way Stone plays the nervous energy of the scene at his house is a small feat of spot-on comic instinct).

Their problems aren't the focal point, and that's key. A late-night confessional between Jacob and Hannah is as much about his motivation for aiding Cal as it is uncovering an obvious psychological rationale for his behavior. There's humor to most of the obstacles, like when Cal's gallivanting comes back to haunt him at a parent-teacher conference. The eruption of piling-up conflicts at a family get-together is appreciatively played for farce instead of catharsis.

Then there's the ending, which ensures closure but refuses conclusive resolution. Without a first date, wedding, or complete reconciliation, Crazy, Stupid, Love. lives up to its characters' insistence that it's the fighting for love, not the victory, that's imperative.

Copyright 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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