Movie Review: “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

Written by Josh Litman August 23, 2011

The romantic comedy, more than any other film genre, has been dissected by Hollywood and collapsed into a single static, invariable formula. It’s not like the action movie, or comedy, or science fiction genre where there’s at least some element of surprise pertaining to what’s going to happen next (unless you’ve seen one of those annoying trailers that spoils the whole movie…but I digress).

No, with the rom-com, you know exactly what you’re going to get. And honestly, it sickens me a little bit. You know what’s going to happen to who, and when — the how is where the film is afforded its only degree of wiggle room. But I guess a movie where you don’t have to think — at all — is soothing to a lot of people; they’re comforted by the same old clichés. Because change is scary, right? Blech!

Change can also be exciting; and what are movies supposed to be if not exciting? And for the record, I love a movie that gets you thinking. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (yeah, there’s a period in the title for some odd reason…probably to irritate reviewers like me), directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris), actually goes to great lengths to break the mould of your typical rom-com.  The film is a comedy — and contains romance — yet, it’s not your archetypal romantic comedy. Go figure.

First, let me get this out of the way: Crazy, Stupid, Love. has the best ensemble cast of the year, bar none. Steve Carell is perfect as Cal Weaver, the hilariously unsophisticated husband/father who attempts to spice up his life after his wife, Emily (sympathetically played by Julianne Moore), says she wants a divorce…subsequent to cheating on Cal with co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon, adding credence and charm to, what’s frankly, a minor supporting role). Meanwhile, the Weavers’ thirteen-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) happens to be in love with seventeen-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who in turn possesses an unrequited love for Cal.

Ryan Gosling is mesmerizing as infinitely charming (not to mention extraordinarily adept) ladies’ man Jacob Palmer, who takes pity on Cal and drags him under his wing in order to convert him into a bona fide player like himself. While the character starts out as almost a walking parody, he eventually becomes more human and well-rounded as the story progresses. In fact, the turning point for his character is perhaps the film’s best scene (and one of the best scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a rom-com, period).

Finally, Emma Stone plays Hannah, the first woman to ever ward off Jacob’s advances; however, whether she changes her mind depends on the outcome of her iffy relationship with fellow attorney Richard (Josh Groban, oddly enough). Stone, too, is remarkable (which, honestly, is par for the course for her) in a role that gets progressively more involving.

In Crazy, Stupid, Love., there isn’t just a single protagonist — the film takes time to develop almost every character, making sure each is sympathetic and three-dimensional. It truly is an ensemble piece.

For example, Julianne Moore’s character could have easily come off as some cheating bitch wife — and Kevin Bacon’s character could have been that douchebag other guy — but the film intelligently sidesteps those clichés and delivers real human personas in their stead.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. also features a sharply written script, with a couple of genuine narrative twists. And if the script ever stumbles (which it does, from time to time), the actors step in to pick up the slack.

The film also avoids clichés whenever possible, which is admirable. And whenever it hits one, it seems painfully self-aware of the fact, usually taking this opportunity to snag a laugh. Indeed, there is a moment where things go sour for Cal and, to the audience’s surprise, he shakes his head and professes, “What a cliché…” That was enough for me.

There are also no real bad guys in the film. Sure, characters do — or have done — bad things, but that only serves to make them more human. For example, the film is mature enough than to simply label the cheater as the bad guy. Things are rarely black and white, just like in real life.

Unfortunately, the film conforms to all those genre clichés just as we begin to feel it has beaten them. Even the film’s trademark self-awareness can’t save it from a last-minute traditional rom-com resolution. Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t break the movie, not by any stretch — and for a lesser film it would be a fine ending — but for Crazy, Stupid, Love., it’s kind of an eleventh-hour letdown.

Maybe if the resolution were shorter, the ending would be more acceptable. But as it stands, the conclusion is far too long-winded, attempting to tie everything up in a neat little bow (okay, maybe neat is a bit of an overstatement…thankfully).

Aside from a somewhat disappointing resolution, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is the best romantic comedy I’ve seen since Definitely, Maybe (if you can call either of those rom-coms). It cleverly rises above the old genre clichés (for the most part) with help from a superb ensemble cast and shrewdly written script. Amidst all the hilarity and excitement, the film touches on some real truths that leave you thinking when all is said and done. I wholeheartedly confess, this film affected me. Ultimately, when I finished laughing, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life.

My Rating: 8.5/10

 

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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1 Comment

There are currently 1 Comment on Movie Review: “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. A very balanced review. Gives props to the film’s strengths and recognizes it’s faults – after all, it is a film about people. The fact that it makes the audience member reflect on him/herself, puts it in the contention to be one of the year’s memorable movies. The all star cast helps, delivering nearly superb execution and a sharp dialogue, as Josh pointed out.

    That the film is a brand of romance – no doubt. A human story – very much so. It recognizes its genre cliches, tries to get over them, but doesn’t quite make it over the fence. Maybe the directors’ next project(s) will recognize that and think even more out of the box for a potential 9,5 rating!

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