In a summer full a big budget Hollywood blockbusters and comic book films, I think it’s great to get a romantic comedy that doesn’t follow every cliché or insult your intelligence. Just once I’d like to see a romantic comedy that actually takes the time to establish characters, give us emotions and more importantly gives us a story, a story that can keep my attention and throw in a few twists along the way, something a little smarter than your typical Katherine Heigl summer film. Crazy, Stupid, Love does that, not perfectly, but for the most part it stays on that path, supplying us with a good story filled with flawed, but good people. It never falls into that completely Hollywood category; it feels like something realistic that has probably happened to someone at some point in their life.
Cal (Steve Carell) is in a bit of a pickle right now. His wife of almost 25 years, Emily (Julianne Moore) has asked for a divorce. She’s slept with someone else and has realized that they have been slowly drifting apart. She tells Cal this over a dinner, in which he thought the main problem of the evening, was going to be deciding on a dessert. This comes as a complete shock to him and he immediately tries to close down and just ignore all of his problems. Instead of listening to his wife talk about their struggling relationship, he decides to jump out of a moving car, anything to make the wife stop talking right? It’s this kind of honest humor that helps make this on the surface downer a bit more uplifting. Cal is damaged goods. It’s not that he was a completely shitty father or husband at all, it’s just that he lost sight of who he was and instead of trying to find himself he’d rather just kind of sink. His motivation is gone; his purpose in life almost seems pointless. He’s just doing the motions of everyday life because that’s what’s expected of him. He’s not really depressed until the divorce is brought up.
The divorce can be considered the worst or best thing in his life. I’d side with best because it gives us a reason to watch this film. When Emily mentions the thought of a divorce, Cal wakes up from his trance. He realizes that the life he thought he had is gone. Sure, he still has his lovely kids and friends, well actually his only friend had to choose between Cal and his wife, but still, he has his kids! This sudden state of loneliness and depression causes Cal to frequent a local bar, a bar crawling with beautiful young women that Cal has no idea how to talk to. He’s only been with one woman all his life and I doubt the idea of hooking up with anyone else ever really crossed his mind.
Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a confident playboy that goes home with a new girl on a day to day basis. Jacob isn’t looking for love; he just wants a quick fling to keep himself occupied. Jacob notices Carl moping around and instantly tries to help him change his life, maybe because he reminds him of someone he once knew or maybe because he was simply bored that night at the bar. The reason isn’t extremely important, at least it didn’t feel important, but it provides us with the rest of the film.
The best laughs in the film really come from Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell interacting. Usually it’s Carell getting most of the laughs, but I found myself laughing at Gosling, who was laughing at Carell. The way they bounce off each other is very subtle, never getting too silly, but it still feels funny. They never go for the really stupid jokes; instead they stick to normal stuff like a 40 year old man with a Velcro wallet. It’s these little moments that help the film cruise along for most of its running time. The first chunk of the film is mostly these two shopping and interacting, but it’s filled with little comedic moments like Cal’s son interrogating David (Kevin Bacon), the man who slept with his mother. I liked the light-hearted feeling of the film. I liked that it was funny, but it still had some emotions hanging around.
It didn’t slip into depression mode until the halfway point and that is when things started to get noticeably slow and unorganized. It’s like the film lost its focus. Is it trying to be a light drama with some comedy or perhaps a heavy drama that’s full of depression? I don’t mind either, but it gets offsetting when both are combined. I thought the first half worked really well because it was so light and guilt free. Yeah, it was a bummer that Cal’s wife slept with another man, but I was ready to watch Cal reinvent himself with the help of this newly met acquaintance. But then things got heavy, real heavy and in a real hurry.
I give the film credit for tackling some messy stuff that is more common than not in this modern age, but man did it just nosedive into these problems. Relationships are messy and sticky and not something that can easily be solved. Unlike most romantic comedies that fix everything fast without damage, Crazy, Stupid, Love takes you on the full journey. From the uplifting moments of Cal getting his groove back and talking with some ladies, to the point where he and his wife reach a point where they just don’t think it will work out. They want it to, but they just don’t think it will.
I like that it handles these real life situations with a lot of authenticity, but I just hated how the pacing went from fast to dull in a hurry, without any warning signs. Everything goes very smooth until the halfway point and then it sort of drags its feet for 15 to 30 minutes and then it picks up again, only to drag down again!
There is a very clever twist that takes place towards the end of the film and it really is the saving grace. I was completely ready to give up on this film, like Emily did on her relationship with Cal, but then the twist took me by surprise. I almost feel like not even mentioning the twist, but if I didn’t than I wouldn’t really have a reason to recommend the film to anyone. It’s a decent light comedy mixed with a little drama, but everything it had going for it was sort of ruined by the depressing second act. The ending really is the only reason I’d suggest seeing this one in theaters because it truly is different for this genre.
But after the film saves itself with these clever scenarios, it manages to sort of ruin it again with an added on 20 minutes that isn’t needed at all. It just started to feel like an ending after an ending. There was a certain point in the movie that could have ended it on a really high note, but they keep going.
Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris, Bad Santa) make a solid movie, but they just don’t know when to cut it. If only they would have stuck with one tone or another and shaved off some of the running time. This could have really been a tight little romantic comedy to hold you over for the summer, but instead if feels sort of bloated and dis-proportioned. It’s not a complete train-wreck, but it could have been much more effective.
I’ve spent the bulk of my review talking about the film in general, but I never mentioned the acting, or any specific performance and that’s because everyone does a fine job. No one really delivers a never before seen performance, but no one is really horrible. Carell isn’t his usual completely dumb self; instead he’s a bit more reserved. Gosling plays the perfect ladies-man, almost perfectly. I liked his little character ark towards the end, it felt needed; otherwise his character would have come off as very 1 dimensional. Moore plays her usual self, mostly drama with a little comedy sprinkled in and Marisa Tomei is actually really hilarious in her few brief scenes.
Oh and then there is Kevin Bacon, who is really making a steady comeback to good films. X-Men: First Class and Super showed that he can still play that prickish bad guy and Crazy, Stupid, Love shows that he can play that kind of stuck in the middle, not really bad but not good type of role.
Emma Stone isn’t her usual funny self; instead she plays that hopeless romantic who kind of tries to break out of her shell a bit. Nothing too great, but no discredit to her, it’s just the character she played.
Overall, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a good film, but not a great one. It comes off a bit higher than average for me, mainly because I was honestly expecting pure garbage. The trailer doesn’t do the film much justice. The funny stuff is a lot better than it looks, but the drama is also a lot heavier than it looks. I think if you walk in blind, you might be turned off by the heavy second act, but the twist could bring you back to enjoyment, but if you go in knowing what to expect, an off kilter romantic comedy, then you might find yourself enjoying it. The performances are great, the story is good, but the ending twist really saves it from being an otherwise forgettable movie.
Crazy, Stupid, Love - 7.5/10