Fairly Funny, Slightly Sad, Immensely Likeable.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (July 29, 2011)     3.5/5

Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Formula is a dangerous thing.  In the midst of contrivances, it is very hard for a film to convey any sort of message that has not already been dissuaded by its artificiality.  Considering this piece of information, Crazy, Stupid, Love. seems to be a sort of small miracle.  It photoshops from romantic-dramadies such as The Kids Are Alright and Love Actually, yet it is undeniably real.  A seen-it-before film at its most genuine.  It is both romantic and comedic, as well as expertly layered with melodrama.  The characterizations are sincere and honest, despite sometimes being far-fetched.  And most of all, it remains a film that stands out amongst most romantic-comedies in a given year, mainly because love is portrayed within the realm of pain, rather than joy, and inhibits the happiness it is so often shown to create.  But in pursuit of that happiness, people will do crazy, stupid things.

Carl Weaver (Steve Carell) soon finds this out firsthand.  Emily (Julianne Moore), his wife of nearly 25 years, suddenly wants a divorce, admitting that she had sex with coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).  Depressed, confused, and stuck in a rut of un-hippness, Carl turns to drinking at a local bar.  Soon enough, after listening to Carl’s hopeless, drunken rants, ladies man Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) decides to take Carl under his wing, making him a desirable bachelor once again.  That is, until Jacob falls for Hannah (Emma Stone), a young woman who initially resists his advances.  He then needs advice from the “old” Carl, hoping that knowledge of serious relationships hasn’t already slipped away.  Meanwhile, Carl’s 13-year-old-son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has a mad crush on his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who actually has a crush on Carl, himself.

The ensemble storytelling is quite effective, as are the players.  Carell plays that Office-style deadpan just as hilariously as he moves us with his dramatic portrayal of a lost man, one who may be the nicest guy in the world, but still must confront misfortune.  Moore, meanwhile, gives the most honest performance in the film.  While Carell’s character knows what he wants – the wife he fell in love with as a teenager (one-night stands are just a mask for his pain), Emily has divorced him because she is no longer sure anymore.  As an audience, we know she loves him, but she has become so bored with her relationship that she is willing to sacrifice that love for new experiences.  Gosling also establishes himself as a superb, likeable comedian, who we can’t help but care about, even if his character may not be the most morally sound.  Emma Stone has also developed into a fine, young actress, and their relationship is one of the film’s most intriguing subplots.

When Stone walks out on her unexciting boyfriend (played by perfectly cast Josh Groban), she comes to Gosling as a last resort, in much the same way as Emily went to Kevin Bacon’s character as a way to relieve her own pain and boredom.  The night that Hannah and Jacob spend together not only represents Jacob’s transformation, but is also one of the most convincing sequences I’ve ever seen about a magical, romantic night.  The two simply fall in love before our eyes.  That is the film’s greatest triumph.  Its weaker segment revolves around Carl’s son and his lust for the 17-year-old babysitter.  Not only does Robbie’s pursuit seem unrealistic (which also puts it mildly for Jessica’s desire for Carl), but the ways he acts upon it spawn scenes that are not only formulaic, but pretty ridiculous.  There is a similar feeling when Carl has a one-night stand with a teacher named Kate, played by Marissa Tomei.  These scenes, when compared with the rest of the movie, simply aren’t original.  But they are still effective in conveying the film’s message, which as previously mentioned, is not disrupted by its weaker aspects.

When people get bored with what they first knew as love, they try to recreate that initial happiness by doing ridiculous things.  It is not until later that they regret not putting such energy into the correct source, the one that enabled them to love in the first place.  It is quite an interesting way to give up.  And that is the one source of truth in Crazy, Stupid, Love.  Despite the dumb things that these people do, they are all good people, and all they want is to be happy.  But because they made such decisions, we’re never sure that they will be.  But the movie gives us hope, and that is very important.  Although the events of Crazy, Stupid, Love. may never happen to you, we all experience these feelings, and therefore, we believe in the characters as if they are friends in need.  We might as well, because despite not having the comic timing of any of these cast members, we are much like them.  And we need their humor to relieve our own pain.

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