Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review - Crazy, Stupid, Love.

After twenty plus years of marriage Emily asks Cal for a divorce. Betrayed and pitying himself, Cal tries to move forward with his life balancing a relationship with his children while also navigating unfamiliar territory. Enter Jacob, a twenty-something year-old bachelor who decides to help Cal reinvent himself into a more confident man.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love." is a comedy that is not afraid to maneuver through some dark and personal territory. Actually, that is the point. Its aims are to tread through darker material bringing out the lighter side of the situations. It is honest and heartfelt in plenty of moments and laugh-out-loud hysterical in others, creating a fine balancing act between depressing and comical situations throughout. The teetering does make the film feel awkward in spots but the performances, situations and twists make it a rewarding experience nonetheless.

As we all know, a marital crisis cannot be an easy situation. It has the potential to be a turning point in someone's life either positively or negatively. Depending on the circumstances, separation and divorce could be a devastating experience for everyone involved. While "Crazy, Stupid, Love." intends to delve into plenty of somber situations, Dan Fogelman's script wisely never allows itself to spend too much time exploring them. Instead it weaves through a number of humorous and connectable characters all with meaningful contributions to be had. Some of Fogelman's script is inherently cliched and completely obvious but the rest of it is surprisingly fresh. Its obviously not the first script to cover a marital/midlife crisis and certainly won't be the last but it deserves notoriety for its knack in remaining dynamic while doing so.

Much of why the blend of somber and humor works so well in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." is the cast. Steve Carell is in top form as Cal. In one scene he can go from making the audience want to cry to laughing hysterically. A perfect example of this is when Cal jumps out of a moving car after his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) has just told him she's had an affair. This sequence is upsetting on a number of emotional levels, yet Carell finds the humor in it and aptly displays it on screen. His character starts off as a pile of self-pity and efficiently becomes the total opposite and Carell nails the transformation wonderfully. Helping Carell to make the transformation is Ryan Gosling as Jacob. Gosling is a fetching male to say the least and he comes across as the perfect embodiment of the single attractive bachelor. The certainty Gosling brings to the character of Jacob bleeds through on screen and watching as he takes Cal under his wing is a big motivator in making "Crazy, Stupid, Love." a memorable experience. The exchanges between Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling as Jacob trains Cal are hysterical, not to mention a pay-off joke that is threaded in after the training which had me laughing so hard I was gasping for air. Story-wise I struggled with this aspect because while Jacob is giving Cal his self-confidence back, the level of chauvinism and womanizing that is on display is rancid. Luckily Gosling and Carell are so good playing off each other as Jacob and Cal, the offensive nature of their actions becomes nearly acceptable.

Earlier I used the word "dynamic" describing the ability Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's directed comedy has in remaining fresh but it also applies to the strong characters and their interaction in Dan Fogelman's script. Too often supporting characters are left under-developed but "Crazy, Stupid, Love." has an absorbing and revealing dynamic that utilizes its supporting characters for rising payoffs. Julianne Moore is, as always, thoroughly engaging when on screen. Moore's scenes with Carell are bittersweet and brutal. Moore knows how to convey emotions without error and she doesn't hold back in this dark comedy. Emma Stone is adorable as Hannah. Her scenes with Ryan Gosling produce huge laughs especially her innocent yet quick-tongued retorts. Analeigh Tipton and Jonah Bobo also deliver satisfying portrayals as Cal's babysitter Jessica and teenage son Robbie. Lastly Marisa Tomei is devilishly delectable as Kate. Again, the entire cast really helps make the 118 minute comedy lasting but the interaction and dynamics written for them to endure pushes "Crazy, Stupid, Love." from being just another good comedy to a memorable one.

Overall "Crazy, Stupid, Love." has a bunch of laughs and a number of I knew that would happen moments but more importantly, it contains a couple of welcomed surprises. Romantic comedies are generally the hardest films for me to get behind and enjoy. I cringe at the idea of a break up-to-make up stories but this one defies the odds and works for me. It has a some moments that fell flat and number of areas I certainly could nitpick but it be meaningless to do so because I walked away satisfied.