Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Release Review: Crazy Stupid Love (Glenn Ficara and John Requa, 2011)

Crazy Stupid Love has taken some time to hit Australian shores, but I'm sure glad I saw it this weekend. This hugely entertaining film is centred on three generations of males as they try to come to terms with love. Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is a fortysomething with a 25-year marriage to his high school sweetheart, Emily (Julianne Moore), a good job, a nice house and kids who adore him. In the film's opening sequence, a dinner date, while nearby couples are playing footsies under the table, a New Balance-wearing Cal and a distant Emily are having no such enjoyment - and Cal's world is crushed when Emily reveals she has slept with a work colleague, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce. Disgusted and choosing not to fight for her, Cal quickly finds his own place and winds up frequently sulking at a local bar telling everyone his problems.

He meets Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) a well-dressed, smooth-talking, ladies man, who feels sorry for him and offers to take him under his wing as his protege. In no time at all, Cal has new duds and possesses some of Jacob's skills for picking up women, which he wholeheartedly embraces. Meanwhile, Cal's son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is actually in love with Cal. Weird. Despite ending up with several women back at his apartment (including a feisty teacher, played by Marisa Tomei, who happens to be Robbie's 8th Grade teacher) Cal misses Emily and tries to win her back. But, in a moment of need, Jacob slips off the map. He has become infatuated with a young lawyer, Hanna (Emma Stone), the only woman to reject his advances.

Crazy Stupid Love is a great date movie, with something for both sexes. The guys will be inspired by Cal’s story, and want to ‘be’ Ryan Gosling, while the girls will swoon over Gosling, who has his shirt off for a bit. Carell is a very capable leading man and at times during this I was reminded of his performance in Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virigin – a sad, anxious, nervous man who has all but given up hope, but finds his romantic side is given a second wind when he is taught how to swing dates. Cal's kind demeanor, his awkwardness and despair alongside manwhore Gosling is a perfect accompaniment.

On that note, Mr. Gosling can do no wrong. Compare this badass performance to his one in Drive and I don’t think you will find two more opposing characters, or two characters as cool. As suave as they come, Gosling adds a welcomed complexity to a pretty generic character. Julianne Moore is still a beautiful woman and is always an alluring presence, while Kevin Bacon (who has featured as a villain in three films this year) has fun in a small role.

But, I don’t think the success of this film rests solely on the cast. This is an intelligent, well-written screenplay that possesses sincerity and effectively tackles the complexities, confusions, the humiliations and beautiful moments of love. The plot strands collide quite effortlessly, and in hilarious and surprising fashion. The patient build-up and the time taken to acquaint us with these ‘likable’ and ‘relatable’ characters (important for me) leads to an ingenious and genuinely surprising collaboration of plot threads, which will be of ill-service to the experience to reveal. The conclusion stretches the running time and is a little bit over-sentimental, but this is forgivable because the film continues to remain entertaining.

Crazy Stupid Love examines love in all of its forms - old and new. Everyone experiences love in their lives, whether you are 13 years-old who is convinced in the existence of ‘soul-mates’ and in love for the first time, whether you have been part of a 25 year marriage and hit a funk that results in both briefly losing sight of that uniting force, or whether you are a callous womaniser usually insensitive to the feelings and emotions of both yourself and others, until finally meeting the one, the challenger to the rule, the heart stealer. Ficarra and Requa could be criticised for taking on too much, with the story of the children adopting almost as much screen time as Cal and Jacob's, which is a misuse of the veterans. 

The film is almost worth it alone for several scenes - having been given the Miyagi treatment; Cal’s first attempt to pick up a woman (Marissa Tomei) is uproarious, as is the aforementioned mass-culmination. But if I had to pick out one scene that was especially heartwarming, it is the sequence where Cal is covertly tending to Emily’s neglected garden unbeknownst to Emily, who is inside the house. He spies her walking around and hides. She picks up the phone and calls someone - him. Visibly overjoyed to just be talking to him, she makes up a story about a faulty water heater to justify the call, when all she desires is to appease her loneliness and hear his voice. Clearly moved, he plays along and walks her through the process of fixing the heater. It’s brilliantly played by both actors as tears well in each of their eyes as they rejoice the moment. 

I was uplifted. I was inspired. I was happy for the rest of the day. My thoughts went to my wardrobe and how none of my clothes are the right size, and how daggy my shoes are, and how I should get on that. Rarely do films in the rom-com genre attract my attention – this was down to the cast – but rarely do they maintain my interest for the entirety or leave me feeling so good. Technically, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, two comedies I enjoyed revisiting recently, are part of this genre, but in 2011, Crazy Stupid Love stands at the top of the tree. Backed by a great cast, it is a sincere, heartwarming and funny look at modern relationships, the ideology of ‘soul mates’, the elusiveness of true love and the beauty of finally finding it. 

My Rating: ★★★★ (B)


  1. I so want to be Ryan Gosling right now. Dude is having a great year. I picked him as my best actor of last year for Blue Valentine and he pulled off another awesome performance in Drive where's currently my #1 pick. He's getting me excited for anything he's doing right now. In fact, I think he could replace Alexander Skarsgard as my new man-crush.

  2. Gosling is my man. I mean I am sorry, but you do not understand the wave of emotions that went through me during the Stone-Gosling-photoshopped-Dirty-Dancing-scene. This was such a fun film.

    Great review. Makes me feel bad about mine. But seriously, good job :)

  3. Wow, that was quite a bit of love! I've seen a few so saddening reviews that I had considered skipping it (or wait for it to come on DVD), but now you make me want to see it after all. Thanks!

  4. I want to see this movie right now, it looks like everything I need: a sweet, yet smart comedy to brighten up my day! I hope it comes to DVD soon (*cough* or Torrent *cough*)

  5. @ Steven - Yeh, he was brilliant in Blue Valentine. Right there alongside Firth and Franco. Should have been nominated at least. I don't know if he will be this year. I think the Academy will stick clear of DRIVE - perhaps only for Brooks and tech work. But The Ides of March might swing him a nomination, or he might get a Globe nom for support in CSL. Whatever happens, he is my man-crush of 2011 haha.

    @ Nikhat - You're review was great! I'm glad you enjoyed the film too :-)

    @ Jessica - I can certainly understand people not appreciating it for the lack of 'crazy' and perhaps being disappointed in the lack of Gosling time - because he is an interesting, and largely unexplored character - but there is plenty of fun to be had in this experience, and I think it is an above-average rom com.

    @ Aziza - Sweet, smart, well-constructed, with likeable, relatable characters and good performances. Your day will be lighter - it's quite uplifting.

  6. I wasn't as crazy about it as you, but I do agree with a lot of what you've said, including that it makes for a really solid date movie. And that scene where Carrel and Moore are on the phone to each other is great - at first you think it's going in an comedic direction, but it ends up being really heartfelt

  7. Yeah, apart from the scene where all the characters come together (which I thought was hilarious), that was my favourite moment in the film...

  8. Film had a great cast and you are absolutely right about Carrel. He conveys solid emotions. J Moore is rarly wrong. Film has many great moments. It was pulled down by the cliche ridden final scene' It was almost embarrasing even with great performances.
    After Drive, Gosling is emerging as my top new star.
    This is a wonderful blog for serious movie lovers. Thanks

  9. Thanks so much for the kind words. I try my best to cover a wide range of film and supply a wide range of opinions. I felt really good after watching this film which was evident I had a great time. The conclusion was a little bit drawn out, and cliche ridden, but I could forgive it because the way these stories converged was hilarious. I think it is a great date movie and it's diversity within the genre (for young and old, male and female) makes it commendable. And Gosling is awesome. Top work again here...