(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, Writ. Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Bobo, Analeigh Tipton, Kevin Bacon.
Well, Bridesmaids might need to divorce itself from the title of this summer’s best studio comedy, since Crazy, Stupid, Love opens this weekend and it might have the sassy bridesmaids beat. What elevates both films above other recent movies are their go-for-broke comedic efforts and their emphasis on strong characterization. Whereas Bridesmaids is more driven by physical and situational humour (that’s not a bad thing!), Crazy, Stupid, Love fuels its comedy with sturdy parallel storylines and smart, uncontrived dialogue. Just like Bridesmaids, though, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a refreshing and laugh-out-loud hilarious escape in a season riddled with sub-par brainless blockbusters.
Crazy, Stupid, Love begins with a disastrous date night between Cal and Emily Weaver, played by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. While Cal peruses the menu and gripes that he can’t pick a dessert, Emily decides that she wants a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage. Cal has little to say while Emily details her infidelity in scene of squeamish word vomit, and he simply moves on from their marriage by assuming a seat at the bar of a trendy local nightclub. From his stool, Cal observes the successful prowling of Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Like Cal, Jacob is a nightly visitor to the bar, but unlike Cal, he happens to be the most well dressed man-slut on the scene.
Since they both frequent the same bar at the same time, Jacob notices Cal as well. One night, after tiring of Cal’s drunken laments over his failed marriage, Jacob offers to give Cal some pointers to help him win back the former Mrs. Weaver. Jacob thus gives Cal a makeover and teaches him the rules of the trade, often to mixed results.
While the scenes in which the young stud teaches new tricks to the old dog have been tried and tested in countless other films, Crazy, Stupid, Love revitalizes this rom-com formula by offering substantial parallel storylines that chronicle the romantic struggles of the other parties involved. Fairing less well than Cal is Emily, who bears the brunt of judgement from their son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo). After hearing of Cal’s new reputation though, Emily decides to have a second date with her co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), with whom she cheated on Cal. Robbie also gets his own storyline of hapless love. He is head over heels for his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who does not quite reciprocate. To complicate matters, Jessica harbours a mad crush on Cal and she is thrilled by his newfound bachelorhood.
Despite the obvious surplus of subplots, Crazy, Stupid, Love balances everything quite well. The screenplay by Dan Fogelman grants enough substance and humour to each of the narratives, making them equally memorable and engaging. Furthermore, the similar arcs allow each scenario of love lost and found to play off one another quite nicely, especially as they culminate to one collective climax that would have the Marx Brothers in stitches.
While being consistently sharp and clever, Crazy, Stupid, Love also has one of the summer’s strongest ensembles. Steve Carell offers his consistent comedic goldmine of playing the straight man. His economical goofiness gives Cal a fun chemistry with Gosling’s standout performance as the overconfident and sly Jacob. As the suave and cocky Jacob teaches the gawky and unrefined Cal how to be a new man, Gosling is the perfect Henry Higgins to Carell’s Eliza Doolittle. Cal’s fair lady, Emily, is well served by Julianne Moore, who not only offers one of her stronger comedic turns, but also does so by gaining laughs through her trademark tears and down to earth dramatic chops. The three leads of Crazy, Stupid, Love all offer droll characters, but they are also ones of surprising complexity for a romantic comedy. Equally good are supporting players Stone and Bacon, as well as newcomers Tipton and Bobo. Crazy, Stupid, Love caps off its strong cast with a hilarious turn by Marisa Tomei as an eager cougar who catches Cal’s eye one night at the bar: it’s easily Tomei’s funniest work since My Cousin Vinny.
Crazy, Stupid, Love has a warm feel to its glossy production, but the film doesn’t sugarcoat the unfolding of its characters’ messy relationships. It’s quite edgy for a PG-13 comedy, but the handling of the material is just as mature as the subject matter. The film also manages genuine belly laughs without resorting to unnecessary coarseness of crudity. Rather, the laughs in Crazy, Stupid, Love are honest and sincere, and they make insightful observations on contemporary family dynamics and sexual attitudes. The film also makes the rare feat of offering plenty of pop culture references that are both uncontrived and funny – the Dirty Dancing scene easily takes top prize!
Proving that a good script and strong actors will always make for a good movie, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a warm delight. A smart and genuinely hilarious film, Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the best finds this summer.