Crazy Stupid Love – 2011

Directed by Glen Ficarra and John Requa

Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, John Carroll Lynch, Marisa Tomei, Analeigh Tipton

Written by Dan Fogelman

This is the kind of movie, made so many times in Hollywood, The Big Chill, Parenthood, Love Actually and Valentine’s Day to name just a few, that it has become a tradition of mixed blessings.  If some of the story lines are good, one can feel like it was not necessarily a waste of time.  If it comes together completely, like in Parenthood, it gives one a glimpse of understanding life.  This one comes across as cohesive to the point of being contrived.  Still, it has its moments; threads that feel like they would have been better mined had they occurred in their own movie

The best of these threads involve Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.  Their romance is effortless and feels like a breath of fresh air.  Gosling, who is in the midst of the run of his life with Blue Valentine, Drive and now this film, employs the grace and presence of his  co-star in The Ides of March, George Clooney.  He looks like a very mature 31.  As I am sure that he will look like at 41, 51, etc. He has the ability to show depth and resonance of feeling with very few words.  Strength like that is needed in a film like this, where characters are often characterized in broad, generic strokes.  In short, if you put Ashton Kutcher in a role like this, it would have been pretty much on par with most of the other acting.

…And he can act.

Except, of course, Emma Stone.  Her gift is sincerity and a wonderful, subtle gift for the understated reaction.  She has consistently been the best thing about each of her movies, like Superbad, Zombieland or Easy A.  Even still, with her foray into romantic comedy, it would seem that her best years are in front of her.  She has the self-effacing humor to survive any fading good looks, if that ever were to happen.  Here, her only weakness is the plot, which weakly attempts to give the impression that she is head over heels for a dullard (Josh Grobin) and that someone who is as subtle as she is sophisticated as Gosling’s Jacob Palmer would hold no sway for her.  When they get together, though, it is magic.  There is perhaps no better romantic combination on the screen in 2011.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Steve Carell, as David, with Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, or, just about anyone.  His part of the movie plays a lot like his role in The 40 Year Old Virgin, only this time he’s been with someone so long that he needs Jacob’s help getting back in the saddle again.  The result is a mixture of good, indifferent and just unrealistic.  The fact that Jacob would make him spend so much money on the midst of one of the most financially draining periods of one’s life – a divorce – is a product of the mindset of one who has spent too much time making movies and not enough time living.

Tomei, as Kate, is as misused as I have ever seen her in a movie.  Her foolish bar date with Carell, and even more ridiculous, the scene at the school are counter to just about everything I have seen her do on film to now.  Brought down to the level of a gimmick, it serves neither the story or the characters to have her act as she does.

She can act, too.

As David’s wife Emily, Moore is back to being as severe as usual.  Other than her inventive turns in The Kids Are Alright, and Boogie Nights, she has always been difficult to enjoy as an actress.  Here, with her ill-timed laughter and her indecisiveness, her role plays more like a plot device than an actual, contemplative person.

As for the other two plot elements, David and Emily’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his crush on the model thin babysitter, Jessica (Tipton), it’s not difficult to believe the crush, but what he does about it would only happen in movies.  Completing this version of Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Jessica, played by a real life model, has an unconvincing crush on the hapless David, which he is totally oblivious to.  More likely that scenario would play more like American Beauty.

Overall, the Crazy, Stupid, Love is harmless to anyone who is adult enough to separate the fantasy from the reality.  To give it anything more than one watch would hammer home the middle part of that trifecta.

(*** out of *****)


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