Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros. Pictures, PG-13)

Not that it’s perfect, but it is considerably better than most Hollywood romantic comedies ever even try to be, which is saying something.

 

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love will probably put a lot of people off from the outset, given the title and the fact that it is being pitched pretty squarely at the romantic comedy crowd. It helps that it has a good and funny trailer, though, in which we see that it also has a great cast—everyone loves Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling has both mainstream credibility (The Notebook) and indie (Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, you name it), Emma Stone has been hot lately (last year’s Easy A, next month’s The Help), and it also has Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore, and a host of other interesting actors and actresses. But if you look even further than that, you’ll see that it was directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the team who was behind last year’s very good and woefully underseen I Love You, Phillip Morris, as well as being the writers of Bad Santa (and, um, Cats & Dogs). So this might actually be a pretty good movie, right?

Thankfully, it turns out that it is. Not that it’s perfect, but it is considerably better than most Hollywood romantic comedies ever even try to be, which is saying something. It has a bit of Love, Actually to it in the way it interweaves a big cast of characters and their specific character arcs, but it’s considerably less grating than that film (and when it comes down to it I liked Love, Actually at least pretty well): Cal (Carell) and Emily (Moore) have been married 25 years but are heading toward a divorce that neither one of them necessarily wants, and in his marriage’s wake Cal is tutored in the art of picking up women by playboy Jacob (Gosling), until Jacob falls for the feisty lawyer Hannah (Stone) and he rethinks his ways. Meanwhile, Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has a life-altering crush on his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton, looking like a young version of Jessica Paré’s character in Mad Men), who sadly has her own life-altering crush on Cal. And just so Emily’s not entirely left out, she begins a shaky-legs courtship with coworker David (Kevin Bacon).

One of the things that makes Crazy, Stupid, Love work is that all of these characters are pretty well-drawn under the circumstances (that’s a bunch of characters and the movie comes in under two hours, after all), and no one is exactly a “bad guy”; they all are pretty redeeming people when it comes down to it. It’s readily apparent that Ficarra and Requa are trying really, really hard to make a crowd-pleaser here, and on the whole they succeed; it has no less than three showstopper scenes, one involving a seduction between Jacob and Hannah and the other two being climactic scenes in the last reel or two of the film. Two of these three scenes work as well as intended, and one includes an homage to Dirty Dancing that is a hell of a lot more fun than actually watching Dirty Dancing ever has been.

It’s nice, too, that Crazy, Stupid, Love continues a recent trend in Hollywood where women over the age of 27 or so are allowed to be portrayed as both pretty and sexual. That said, the number of 28+-year-old women portrayed this way lately has a direct correlation to movies Steve Carell is the lead in—here we have Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei, last year we had Tina Fey in Date Night, a few years back we had Catherine Keener in The 40-Year-Old Virgin; it’s as if this is only happening because Carell can’t pull off the Adam Sandler thing where he gets older but his love interests stay the same age (with due credit to Wooderson in Dazed & Confused for that paraphrase). So much the better for us, though, because it results in at least slightly more mature romantic comedies than Hollywood generally cranks out, and Crazy, Stupid, Love is definitely one of the better ones of recent memory. | Pete Timmermann

 

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