Cal Weaver’s wife, Emily, wants a divorce. She also banged another dude that she works with. David Lindhagen is his name. Within the first 10-15 minutes, Cal (Steve Carrell) is divorced from Emily (Julianne Moore) and getting dating and style lessons from the nicest “should-be-a-douche-but-isn’t” alpha male on the planet in the form of Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling.) You’re going to be alright with this scenario because Crazy, Stupid, Love is not too crazy, more silly than stupid, and lovely.
This is a flick where everything good about movies comes together in a wonderful, though just shy of sublime, kind of way. Steve Carell brings his signature awkward warmth to create Cal Weaver – poster child for the modern, dispassionate gentleman perfectly at ease with wearing New Balance sneakers with a pair of khakis (I’m no clothes horse but I shuddered when I first saw this on screen) and a shirt and tie. He’s the kind of guy just waiting for midlife crisis to hit him but his wife has one hit her first. Julianne Moore as Emily Weaver could have easily been written as somebody to hate and a lesser actress could’ve let the role down as written. Luckily Moore instills a need to identify with a character who, along with her spouse though he doesn’t know it, lost herself somewhere in the middle of all the day to day drudgery professional and parental life affords. There’s spoilery reasons as to why that hits them a bit harder than most so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it’s not for shallow bullshit reasons that Emily slips up.
The way Jacob Palmer finds himself mixed up with Cal is at first, a bit unbelievable. The manner in which Jacob offers his services is seemingly too altruistic a move for the character; meeting what Ryan Gosling made when he first hits on Emma Stone’s Hannah, the dude just seems like a sleaze that’s probably riddled with crabs who have syphilis. Yet despite that, you accept Jacob approaching this schlub of a wrecked man and wanting to help him because Jacob never actually does anything could be construed as mean spirited. Sure, he’s a womanizer but he’s respectful and though he’ll badger a girl until she walks away, he knows to let her walk away…which only happens once in the movie.
There are two things that keep this movie from falling into the pit of rom-com Heigel Hell. Actually, make that three things. Obviously the first is that Katherine Heigel is nowhere to be seen. Secondly, touching on the topic of talent again – the three leads all brought their A game obviously – the supporting cast includes performances that feel at home in both dramatic and comedic fashions. Notables are Marissa Tomei who plays a less pathetic and funnier version of the character she played in What Women Want. Emma Stone continues to balance adorably hot with spot on physical and verbal comedic timing in a way that should only be allowed in men’s daydreams. I really don’t know how she does it.
The Bacon known as Kevin makes an appearance as somebody you should hate but never really do but probably the biggest props to secondary roles go to Analeigh Tipton and Jonah Bobo. The baby sitter, Jessica Riley and the son, Robbie Weaver, respectively put on some great performances. Even though Tipton’s resume is a bit green, she does awkward, lovelorn teenager quite well. Bobo’s a child actor and the rough edges show – a lot of his performance doesn’t feel quite natural – still, there’s something undeniably charming about the kid that assures he’ll improve his craft.
The third thing is that plot stays interesting. You can phone in most Hollywood love stories and it’s true that this has its share of those moments but those moments are saved by the actors performances every time. Clever plot points pop up just when you need something a little extra to keep the movie from losing its audience.
The only notable kink in the movie is that even though there some truly clever moments in plot development, there are some very awkward set pieces that pulled me out of the movie. The last scene in particular was just so damn silly that I wanted it to go away. It was like a kid who just discovered his sense of “humor” and wants to impress your friends with it, that kind of awkward; just lock it in a room until it settles down. And on a whole, the dialogue is top notch but there are some tired pieces of word candy getting spurt out every so often as to remind us that yeah, this is still a Hollywood love story.
I can forgive all those little nitpicks because Crazy, Stupid, Love manages to be likable while humorously looking at problems that anybody long term relationship can understand. Sometimes good things just get broken if you don’t keep up with the maintenance schedule. There aren’t bad guys in situations like that, just people in a shitty situation and this movie understood that. So, yeah, definitely see this if you had been wanting to see this or need a date night movie. You could probably wait until it came out on Netflix otherwise but as it stands, approved and recommended.
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