I sit through way too many romantic comedies each year hoping that one of them will wind up being something like ”Crazy Stupid Love.” Coming at the tail end of summer 2011, this genre-pic manna tastes way too sweet. But it’s not worthy of exaltation just due to the sea of flops surrounding it or praise just because it wasn’t bad, it’s actually just a good movie, one with heart, humor, and insight.
Take away the Christmas setting and it’s actually reminiscent of a small-scale “Love Actually.” The movie provides perspectives on love from Generations X, Y, and Z, stories that are told with an uncanny sincerity that overpowers their slightly hackneyed development. Written by Dan Fogelman, who had previously only dabbled in light kiddie fare like “Tangled” and “Cars 2,” delivers a work full of maturity and scope, one that winds up being surprisingly clever. The movie has a few tricks up its sleeves, and it makes the movie a great deal more engaging than any other movie dealing with this subject matter.
Fogelman’s best maneuver, however, may be reminding us to expect the unexpected when it comes to something as complicated (or crazy and stupid) as love. While Hollywood may require a certain ending point, the journey to get there doesn’t have to be formulaic or predictable. The characters of “Crazy Stupid Love” make that voyage fun because they are hardly conventional romantic comedy archetypes, save perhaps Emma Stone’s insecure burgeoning career woman.
But all the actors give such spirited, in-tune performances that they can transcend whatever faults their characters may have on paper; that goes especially for Stone, whose charms abound and we can’t help but wonder when she will be crowned Hollywood’s next queen. Someone should crack a bottle of champagne for the casting directors of “Crazy Stupid Love” because the A-team they have assembled really elevates the material above and beyond its potential on paper.
It all begins with the end of the Weaver’s marriage. While the beautiful Emily (Julianne Moore) toys around with the other guy at work, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), sad-sack forty-something Cal (Steve Carell) bums around on the bar scene, unsure whether he’s looking for sympathy or another woman. He ends up finding Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a stylish player who has turned the art of bar pickups into a science. Jacob, self-absorbed gelled horndog that he is, embarks on a mission trip to rescue Cal from his non-declared midlife crisis by moving him past a department store look and towards embracing his ringless status.
Their unlikely partnership is underscored by the improbability that these actors would be friends. Gosling being the strait-laced, stone-faced dramatic actor that he is and Carell being the goofball comedian that he is, it just doesn’t seem like a great match. Yet against all odds, the two actors make it work – and it’s all the more remarkable when on screen, they share insights and swap strengths. Gosling nails the comedy of Jacob, both in the absurdly well-kept physicality and in the snappy, snooty dialogue. Carell, on the other hand, finds the heart deep within Cal and plays it for comedy as well as some light histrionics.
Just as the two actors take each other’s strengths, their characters thrive off the other’s perspective on love. Jacob needs Cal to help him woo the gorgeous Hannah (Stone) who seems somewhat averse to his cookie-cutter routine, just as Cal needs him to get slick and sleek for some special woman – although he isn’t quite sure whether that’s Emily or some spirit-sipping siren at the club. Various other subplots play out involving friends and family, but it’s these four actors that knock “Crazy Stupid Love” way out of the romantic comedy ballpark. Where that home run ball lands in your overall moviegoing ballpark, however, is a very relative matter. But I think it’s a comedy that has more to offer than we’ve come to expect from the genre and can satisfy on many levels. B+ /