Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Crazy, Stupid, Love. was promoted almost as a buddy comedy between Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, when in fact it is very much so a romantic comedy. The film is crazy and stupid, and quite a lot of fun. I was drawn to the film because of the actresses: Julianne Moore, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei, but the film hinges on the great performances from its leading men. Personally, Steve Carell thrives when he is subdued and not being goofy (think Little Miss Sunshine and not The Office (though he did well early on)). Ryan Gosling, on the other hand, has had little experience in comedy since the days of Breaker High (1997). He won acclaim for roles in Half Nelson (2006), Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and Blue Valentine (2010). This type of role is a challenge and he sinks his teeth into the character, a confident womanizer. The story could have been tighter, but screenwriter Dan Fogelman (whose credits thus far have included Cars and Tangled) manages its story lines and surprises without giving too much away. The film is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, whose directorial debut I Love You Phillip Morris also put a spin on the romantic comedy with a veteran comedy actor using more subtle skills. The challenge of Crazy, Stupid, Love. is to melange the themes and emotions drama (a divorce and its ramifications) with that of comedy (his attempt to rebound). A major reason for the success of its plot is the development of the characters. The four main characters are likable and sympathetic and the audience wants the relationships to succeed. The drama is also balanced by lighthearted teenage crush. Crazy, Stupid, Love. features strong characters who understand that love is both crazy and stupid in a film that manages to be light and heartfelt at the same time. I would watch these four actors and these four characters develop and grow well past the film's ending.

Cal Weaver (Carell) thinks he is happy. He has a good job, two great kids and a fantastic wife (Moore). His life falls apart when he learns that Emily wants a divorce and had an affair with a coworker (Kevin Bacon). Cal moves into an apartment and starts frequenting a bar, where he meets Jacob (Gosling). Jacob has a gift with women. He meets a different woman every night and takes her home. His viewpoint changes when he meets Hannah (Stone), the only woman who declined his offer. Hannah is a law student and expects her boyfriend (Josh Groban) to propose after he passes the bar. Cal and Jacob develop a friendship and with Jacob's help Cal reinvents himself, changing his appearance and learns to flirt with women. Cal uses this to seduce Kate (Tomei) and their one night stand ends up being a huge mistake. Meanwhile, Hannah does not get engaged and seeks validation in Jacob. As Cal experiments with more women, his young teenage son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his seventeen year-old babysitting Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Robbie's youthful wisdom helps Cal understand that he is still in love with Emily but their fractured marriage needs to be healed.

As I was watching Crazy, Stupid, Love. I was stuck thinking about the number of films that take place in California. I would like to see how this kind of situation would translate to a family in a different region. In a romantic comedy we often talk about chemistry, and there is definitely chemistry between Steve Carell and Julianne Moore and between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The spark between these two couples is obvious, but the chemistry between Carell and Gosling is more subtle and more important. It is necessary for the viewer to see the pair as peers (not quite equals) rather than the father-son relationship, considering their age difference (which is 18 years). As I said, the young unrequited romance between Robbie and Jessica balances the heavy drama of Cal and Emily. Love is not just for adults and it further highlights how love is both crazy and stupid. Cal and his son do equally stupid and crazy things to prove their love. The romantic comedy genre has often included a younger character to act as the voice of reason. This was obvious in 2009's (500) Days of Summer. The twist is that this same character is experiencing his own love pains. Crazy, Stupid, Love. offers a lot of humour and a lot of tenderness and in balancing this achieves success. Ryan Gosling (and his body!) is the star and we should appreciate his talent in a new role.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of 4.

No comments:

Post a Comment