Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Director : Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Screenplay : Dan Fogelman
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Steve Carell (Cal), Ryan Gosling (Jacob), Julianne Moore (Emily), Emma Stone (Hannah), Analeigh Tipton (Jessica), Jonah Bobo (Robbie), Joey King (Molly), Marisa Tomei (Kate), Beth Littleford (Claire), John Carroll Lynch (Bernie), Kevin Bacon (David Lindhagen), Liza Lapira (Liz), Josh Groban (Richard)
Crazy, Stupid, Love. begins like an alternate-universe version of last summer’s Date Night: Instead of Steve Carell’s wife being played by Tina Fey and making jokes about imagined conversations taking place amongst their fellow diners in a nondescript restaurant, Steve Carell’s wife is played by Julianne Moore and she blurts out at the end of dinner, “I want a divorce!” The fact that an ostensible romantic comedy begins with those four words is the first hint that Crazy, Stupid, Love. is not your typical rom-com or even your typical romantic dramedy. Rather, co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, working from a script by Dan Fogelman, have cooked up a unique cross-section of modern romantic highs and lows via a group of interconnected characters, each of whom represents a different stage of love.
Carell’s Cal is a fortyish suburban father and husband who has spent the past two decades trying to be what he thinks those things are, and in the process has become complacent, which is what has driven his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) into the arms of a goofy accounting coworker named David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). After getting booted from the house and taking up residence in a nondescript apartment, he starts frequenting a trendy bar with a much younger clientele. There he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), an attractive, confident, independently wealthy young womanizer who has all the right moves and decides to bestow some of them on Cal, whose frumpy wardrobe, penchant for self-pity, and tendency to drink his vodka cranberry through a straw all mark him as someone woefully out of date with the contemporary singles scene. Desperate to put his failed marriage behind him, Cal allows himself to fall under Jacob’s tutelage, in the process becoming a new man, but not necessarily a better one. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to Hannah (Emma Stone), a successful twentysomething who turns down Jacob’s advances one night in favor of her stuffy, but stable boyfriend (Josh Groban), although there are hints that she is looking for more.
If Cal and Emily’s story represents amour on the rocks, Hannah represents the sterility of love that is too cautious and controlled, and Jacob suggests the initially appealing, but ultimate emptiness of sexual hedonism, then the mantle of true, unadorned love in all its raw glory must be taken up by the young, in this case, Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who pines away ceaselessly for his gawky 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Robbie is completely unashamed in conveying this unrequited love, and while he thinks that Jessica resists him simply because of their age difference (which, he points out via text message, has not been enough to keep Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore apart), it is also because she is in the exact same position, although her unrequited crush is on Cal and she is too timid to say anything about it.
The screenplay by Dan Fogelman, who until now has made a career almost entirely out of working on scripts for Disney and Pixar films like Cars (2006), Bolt (2008), and Tangled (2010), has a dexterous understanding of the in’s and out’s of romantic entanglements, and the film works so wonderfully because it conveys both the exuberance of being in love and all of the potential pain it can bring. Being in love means being vulnerable, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. is filled with moments of vulnerability that are both hilarious and poignant, whether it be Robbie staging what he thinks is the ultimately public confession of his love for Jessica or Cal secretly watching Emily through the window while she calls him and makes up a story about needing his help with the water heater just to talk to him. Similarly, when Jacob discovers that he may have actual feelings for Hannah, it is so alien a concept to him that he literally doesn’t know what to do. The man with all the answers suddenly has none.
Ficarra and Requa, whose only other directorial credit is the unconventional romance I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), started their careers writing caustic comedies like Bad Santa (2004), and they bring just enough edge to Crazy, Stupid, Love. to keep it from ever sinking into sentimentalism and to redeem some of the more contrived aspects of the story. They certainly go with the “love conquers all” message that the film’s interlocking stories ultimately suggest, but the finely tuned awkward humor they bring to the proceedings, not to mention some hard reality checks that aren’t always easily redeemed, makes it all feel deeply and refreshingly human.
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © Warner Bros.