Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love. is probably the most satisfying romantic comedy I’ve seen since (500) Days of Summer (2009). However, unlike that indie darling, Crazy, Stupid, Love. succeeds not by playing with and overturning the conventions of the romantic comedy genre, but rather by fulfilling them in a skillful and delightful manner.

Most of the key elements of romantic comedy are here, and the plot is pretty standard. On a boring date night, Emily (Julianne Moore) tells her complacent husband Cal (Steve Carell) that she has slept with another man. Cal is horrified. After they separate, Cal spends a few nights drinking and whining at an upscale lounge. Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a smooth and stylish womanizer who frequents the lounge, is offended by the sorry state of Cal’s manhood, and takes it upon himself to help Cal pick up women. Meanwhile, Jacob has become interested in the one girl who can resist him: Hannah (Emma Stone). Hannah has her own problems with her dull lawyer boyfriend. Emily navigates a fling with the coworker she slept with (Kevin Bacon), while Cal and Emily’s son pines for his babysitter. And that’s not even all of it! It sounds confusing to read, but the multiple plots are interwoven skillfully, and they come together nicely. The multiple romances, the conflict between generations, the cuckold, the lusty bachelor, and the elusive heroine all remind me of Shakespeare. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman is clearly aware of the classic form. We also get the expected confusions, surprises, verbal wit, and the dissection and ultimate celebration of monogamy. There are also elements of the comedy of manners: Jacob could be the rake from some Restoration comedy, and the film at times satirizes the love affairs of the upper-middle class. Make no mistake, though, this is light fun, and the film achieves its intended pleasure.

The cast is so charming we don’t mind that the plot is formulaic; we’re just happy to see these people get together. Steve Carell is likeable in his fairly regular but slightly awkward mode. Julianne Moore gets the least attention in the movie, but she is believable in three forms of womanhood: as wife, mother, and lover. Emma Stone is smart, attractive, yet real looking, which is not the norm in Hollywood.

Ryan Gosling steals the show though—at least for the first half of the movie. His type of seducer character always becomes a better person, which unfortunately means he usually becomes less amusing. This year Gosling has emerged as one of the biggest movie stars, but he’s also proven that he has what it takes to succeed. He’s a movie star triple-threat (and I’m not talking about singing, dancing, and acting). In 2011, Gosling has delivered in mainstream fare (this), in a prestige picture (George Clooney’s The Ides of March), and in an indie/art house flick (Drive). Let’s hope he continues to balance the three.

7 out of 10

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa; written by Dan Fogelman; starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Kevin Bacon.