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Crazy, Stupid, Love

July 30, 2011
Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I’m beginning to wonder if Steve Carell can make a bad movie. Evan Almighty notwithstanding, he’s been on quite a comedic tear, running the gamut from more action-oriented roles in Get Smart, to arty stuff like Little Miss Sunshine, to zaniness like Dinner for Schmucks. The latest is a straightforward, solid, adult comedy: Crazy, Stupid, Love. But it wouldn’t be fair to simply credit Carell, since it’s well-done from top to bottom.

Cal Weaver (Carell) has the life he always wanted, married to his high school sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore). Unfortunately, Emily seems dissatisfied, which led to a fling with one of her co-workers (Kevin Bacon) and a request for a divorce. Cal pretty much shuts down, volunteering to “sign anything” and move out that very night. After dropping off the babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), he stops into an upscale bar he’d passed many times before and quickly becomes a sad shlub, telling his depressing story to anyone he can force to listen.

One of the bar’s regulars is Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who is pretty much Cal’s exact opposite. He’s such a ladies’ man that he goes home with a different one every night. We only see his advances refused once, by a young woman named Hannah (Emma Stone). Jacob takes pity on Cal and decides to help the poor guy out, improving his wardrobe and attitude towards the dating scene. But of course we know that things are going to change with Hannah as the story plays out.

And this isn’t even getting into Cal’s son’s crush on the babysitter, or her crush on Cal, or any of the other smaller storylines that run through the film. It could easily have bogged itself down and gotten lost amid everything it has going on, but it actually manages to keep everything running smoothly enough that it doesn’t ever get difficult to follow. And though comedies aren’t exactly known for twists, this one does manage to have a few surprises in store.

Carell, of course, has this role down pat. Gosling is great, as usual. In fact, the whole cast pretty much nails it. The writing is tight and engaging — it’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who wrote Cars 2, although he did also come up with Tangled. Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are also the duo behind I Love You Phillip Morris. And just like that movie, it has a broad appeal while retaining something of an edge and not giving in to the lowest common denominator.

In fact, I’m struggling to find nits to pick here. So I’ll settle for this: the portrayal of divorce is pretty simplistic when it comes right down to it. There aren’t really any deep, structural problems; it’s pretty much just a rough patch that could have been worked through with some actual communication between Cal and Emily, if he hadn’t just folded like a cheap, ill-fitting suit. But this is pretty much always the way it is in these movies: the divorced couple doesn’t really have any problems, and they’re going to make up eventually. Even if they don’t quite get to that point in Crazy, Stupid, Love., they certainly seem to be heading in that direction. Besides that, it’s sort of hung up on the whole “soul-mate” concept, which I’m pretty much the opposite of sold on.

But if you get to the point of picking at the underlying philosophy of romance espoused by a comedy, it must be getting quite a lot right in the first place.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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