22 September 2011

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love


A

Crazy, Stupid, Love
2011, 118mins, 12
Director (s): Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Cast includes: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Analeigh Tipton, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
UK Release Date: 23rd September 2011

There’s an honesty about the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love” that makes it absolutely irresistible. Directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (last year’s excellent “I Love You Phillip Morris”), the film is a bubbling pot of endearing screenwriting, detailed performances and comedic gold. With a plot that involves over half a dozen key characters and which runs at 118 minutes, one could be forgiven for assuming that “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is an overcooked, schmaltzy and drab effort, or more accurately the US equivalent of the painfully overrated Richard Curtis snoozer “Love Actually”. However whilst permissible, such presumptions would be wrong. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a phenomenally affecting and beautifully designed slice of Hollywood fantasy, a brave picture that understands heartbreak just as astutely as it does love.

After his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) confesses to infidelities and asks for a divorce, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is left hopelessly adrift in a world he doesn’t understand. Whilst rambling incoherently at a bar one evening, he draws the attention of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a handsome lounge lizard with a gift for seducing women. Jacob takes pity on Cal and begins to teach him the tricks of the trade, helping the middle-aged loser to update his wardrobe and understand the fundamentals of scoring with attractive girls. Eventually Cal gets the knack of it, a parade of meaningless flings (including one with a lively Marisa Tomei) ensuing. Yet no matter how passionate the sex is Cal can’t seem to fill the void that Emily once so effortlessly occupied. Meanwhile Jacob is after feisty redhead Hannah (Emma Stone), his usual moves not having much of an effect on the spirited young woman. As he falls slowly in love and Cal pines for his old life, their two worlds become intertwined, leading to some interesting domestic dynamics.

The screenplay by Dan Fogelman is a gem, which in honesty is quite surprising. Fogelman has cut his teeth mostly on family fare in the past, none of it very good, his run of rancid hits including “Fred Claus” and “Cars 2”. However with “Crazy, Stupid, Love” the writer has transitioned into the world of adult cinema marvelously, crafting a deftly plotted and deeply engaging dramedy. Every character in this superlative movie is exquisitely rendered, Fogelman’s strong writing and a series of flawless performances contributing to concoct something truly special. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is just as interested in exploring the downsides of romance as it is the highs, depicting its protagonists as vulnerable and often sad, each individual struggling with the load endowed upon them by Cupid. The picture is fiercely committed to having believable personalities at the fore, their actions fraught with mistakes and quirks. Of course “Crazy, Stupid, Love” has some degree of formula to adhere to (it is after all a mass market studio release), but the filmmakers unravel the story in the most charming and lovable fashion possible. It’s simply a joy.

Requa and Ficarra do superb work from behind the camera, turning “Crazy, Stupid, Love” into an attractively filmed, amusing and thematically rich affair. The duo’s sense of comedic timing is terrific, even if with “Crazy, Stupid, Love” they demonstrate a slightly less audacious style of humour than was present in “I Love You Phillip Morris”. In regards to joking, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” sticks more rigidly to standard Hollywood expectation than some of Requa and Ficarra’s other works, but that’s not to say it doesn’t inspire plenty of laughs. The picture may not be raunchy or politically incorrect, but it definitely delivers a plethora of witty dialogue and even some uproarious set-pieces. One such sequence takes place in Cal’s backyard, the directors utilizing shock value and coincidence to hysterical effect. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is also a pleasantly edited and creatively shot feature, but it’s the filmmakers appreciation of funny business and truthful human connection that allows the movie to impact so heavily upon its audience.

The performances are uniformly outstanding. Steve Carell is sympathetic and subtly distraught as Cal, the actor sidelining his sharp comedy intuition for most of the film, only breaking it out when the script demands a moment of stellar delivery. Julianne Moore starts the film as a villain of sorts, but the actress quickly turns Emily into a complex victim of mundane living, deeply regretful concerning her actions and protective of her family. Gosling nails the hollowed out charmer routine, displaying both confidence and a nagging emptiness. The thespian also adjusts perfectly to the picture’s comic sensibilities when required, something I haven’t really seen him do in the past. Emma Stone rounds out the preliminaries, the actress once again showcasing why she’s a surefire bet to be the next big thing. She’s a true sweetheart, her ability to handle both silly and dramatic material once again leaving a stunning mark.

On the fringes of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a subplot concerning Cal’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) becoming infatuated with his older baby-sitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who has in turn developed a confused crush on Cal. It’s a slightly less meaningful strain of storytelling than is evidenced in the rest of the movie, but it still entertains in a brisk fashion, before aiding the film’s soulful and immensely satisfying conclusion. Both Bobo and Tipton are tremendous (especially given their relative inexperience), further bolstering this masterful piece of work as a result.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is an adorable motion picture. It’s mature, nuanced yet incredibly accessible, boasting a roster of characters and arcs that most viewers should have no trouble identifying with. After this and “I Love You Phillip Morris”, Requa and Ficarra have become filmmakers to watch and hopefully cherish; even in this early stage of their careers they are creating breathtakingly good cinema. I would recommend “Crazy, Stupid, Love” in a heartbeat, and can only hope that future generations come to respect it as the genre masterpiece it so clearly is.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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