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)