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Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
Movie Reviews

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

A romantic comedy with dramatic leanings; between its cleverness and its comedy it can feel like two movies fighting for the same space.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love. is very much a movie, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The fact that it’s so innately cinematic, however, ultimately diminished my ability to appreciate it on a deeper level. This is somewhat disappointing because there are select moments so well written and performed that they show a great deal of intelligence and warmth on the part of directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and screenwriter Dan Fogelman (who is, incidentally, best known for penning the animated films Cars, Bolt, and Tangled). This is by no means a bad movie, and I am recommending it. It’s just that, for all its entertainment value, I was hoping for something that tried for just a little more. At best, I can categorize it as a romantic comedy with some dramatic leanings. Pleasant, but typical.

It essentially tells three separate stories, although they will ultimately converge in a rather showy display of serendipity. In the first story, we meet Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), a fortysomething Los Angeles working man. On the surface, he seems to have it all; he has a decent office job, he’s married to his high-school sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), and he has two well-behaved younger children living at home. But then, completely out of the blue, Emily announces that she has been unfaithful and wants a divorce. Dumbstruck and depressed, Cal moves into an apartment and begins frequenting a local bar, where he sulks and goes on drunken rants. This catches the attention of a handsome lothario named Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a man so unbelievably charming and magnetic that it defies explanation. He takes it upon himself to mentor Cal; he will teach him in the ways of approaching women, drinking manly drinks, and dressing with a sense of style.

In the second story, Jacob tries to hit on a young law student named Hannah (Emma Stone). There’s no question that she finds him attractive (as much as she initially denies it), but she’s hip to his womanizing tricks and resists him at every turn. Things change when a dinner conversation with her boyfriend (Josh Groban) doesn’t go the way she thought it would; with a little – actually, a lot – of help from alcohol, she goes back to Jacob and accepts his offer to go to his place. In her impaired state, she insists that, in spite of her general demeanor, she’s capable of R-rated lovemaking, as opposed to a PG-13 situation that ends with a tender kiss on the cheek. Jacob is simultaneously fascinated and frightened by Hannah; he can’t get her out of her mind, and yet committing to one woman goes against his hedonistic lifestyle. Does he have it within him to settle down?

The third story involves Cal’s thirteen-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who has a very outspoken crush on his seventeen-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). She is, in his mind, his soul mate. He will persist in trying to win her affections, even at the expense of embarrassing himself in front of large groups of people. Jessica could not be less interested in Robbie, although it has little to do with the obvious age difference; she harbors a secret crush on Cal, which has only deepened since the announcement of his divorce. What she ultimately does to reveal her affections leads to a confrontation between her father (John Carrol Lynch) and Cal that would have been better suited for a comedy of errors. In that instance, it could be passed off as a hallmark of screwball comedy. Here, it’s just strained.

Two minor subplots – one involving the man Emily had an affair with, the other involving the woman Cal is dating – work their way into the story, and both are handled about as well as can be expected. The other man in Emily’s life, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), is the subject of many jokes about how no one can pronounce his last name correctly. Cal has a one night stand with a woman named Kate (Marisa Tomei), who seems rather desperate to get back in the dating game and doesn’t take kindly to men that don’t call her back. What we learn as we watch them is pretty much what we expected to learn: Cal and Emily seem better together than apart, even though they married young. As to whether or not they will actually reconcile is something I leave for you to discover.

There are some very well-written scenes with all the characters. One of my favorites takes place after Robbie receives a one-day suspension for his colorful analysis of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Sitting in Emily’s office, he reveals to her that he knows she cries alone in her bedroom at night, and when asked how he could understand her emotional state, he gives a funny and surprisingly tender reply: “I looked it up on Google.” Robbie is aware of who David is and what he has done, and their one scene together involves a hilarious sight gag that reverts to nothing less than base animal instincts. What I didn’t appreciate about Crazy, Stupid, Love. was the conflict between its cleverness and its comedy; at times, it feels like two movies fighting for the same space, and so rarely do they work in harmony. I think what saves the film is that the separate elements generally work. It all depends on your willingness to view it through two lenses.

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07/29/2011

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PG-13

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Warner Bros. Pictures

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi