Review: Crazy Stupid Love
Few smooth operators are more likable than Ryan Gosling’s lothario in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Left and right, he reels in women, effortlessly and mostly believably. We root for him admittedly for his charisma but also for his compassion.
The invulnerable playboy player Jacob (Gosling) discovers passive/ aggressive, self-described “cuckold” Cal (Steve Carell) as a regular wallflower in a singles meet market after Cal gets dumped by longtime wife Emily (Julianne Moore). First put off by Jacob as an unreproachable opposite type, Cal begins to see the possibilities of his own rejuvenation at Jacob’s hands after Jacob talks him into a (huge) makeover. Cal eventually takes Jacob’s seduction lessons to the hilt, leading to big trouble since he’s still in love with Emily (played with Moore’s customary emotional precision) and would rather be back home than ravishing beautiful strangers.
Directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficara (I Love You Phillip Morris, screenwriters for Bad Santa), Crazy, Stupid, Love (why the second comma?–more on that later) comes dangerously close to stumbling into the overblown reaches of schmaltz. It gets pulled back repeatedly by the genuinely first-rate cast. A very good Emma Stone (Easy A), Marissa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are along for the ride, Carell is his usual master deadpan stylist, and the often wonderfully talented Gosling (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson) seems to personally take the film on his shoulders.
Gosling reportedly added to the script an important motif that invloves slapping Carell in the face as an exclamation point to Carell’s cluelessness (Moe from the 3 Stooges comes to mind). He also in a Film Comment story is said to have convinced the directors to allow him to change his character from the stock issue villainous rake who gets reformed by finding true love. Instead he presents a Jacob who, by his very likeability and the sheer force of his character, adds a depth of nuance to the film that allow it to veer away from the many cliches that permeate it. You have a know-it-all, bring-the-parents-back-together 13-year-old, the babysitter who gets a crush on Carell, and a vengeful one-night-stand Tomei. Yet the film thrives on the sharp-as-a-razor interplay between Carell and Gosling, and the equally vibrant scenes between Gosling and Stone.
Crazy, Stupid, Love gives you a feeling romantic comedy boundaries are being stretched. However, while it even includes a twist you may not see coming, it may not be stretching very much at all. I’ll settle for it avoiding succumbing to its own cornball denouement while retaining an integrity–no small achievement in the world of summer comedies. Genuine laughs outweigh no-credibilty rubbage here. You shoudn’t need a slap in the face to get the extra comma in the title either. Love is ALWAYS crazy and stupid.
7.5 slaps out of 10