August 1, 2011

Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

The writing and directing team of Glenn Ficara and John Requa, who were behind the solid I Love You, Phillip Morris, are back with another love based comedy. The difference this time is the edginess of the Jim Carrey/ Ewan McGregor film has been abandoned and the movies schizophrenic tone seems to play everything towards the middle. It may also have to do with the fact that he screenwriting duties were handled by Dan Fogelman, whose work has primary been with Disney with the likes of Cars 2, Tangled, and Bolt. Here the team work on a story that holds the concept of the soul mate in high regard.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a movie that is alternately funny and heartfelt while never feeling quite real. Many of the concepts are dealt with in a black and white fashion and there is not a terrible amount of depth. A lot of it seems to come down to a momentary lapse of reason, that if you fight hard enough for the one you love, all will he all right. Those of us who live in the real world know that is not true, everything is shades of grey and not everything is going to work out the way you want it to.

This movie tackles the love issue on a few different fronts, and as this movie is meant to be an entertainment as opposed to a treatise on the topic of love in the real world, it is best not to examine it too deeply. The surface content is genuine enough and believable enough for this fantasy world.

The main story follows Cal (Steve Carell) whose wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has revealed that she had an affair and wants a divorce. Sad sack Cal agrees to give it to her and moves out. He takes to hanging around an upscale bar where he would regale anyone with his story of infidelity. Local ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes him under his wing and teaches him the ways of seduction. Before you know it, he is off and running with the ladies, even if his heart isn't quite in it.

The secondary story has Jacob becoming enamored with a young woman who just may be the cure for his lothario ways. The woman is Hannah (Emma Stone), who doesn't seem sure of what she wants in life as she studies for the bar and initially has a bland boyfriend.

Next up is Cal's son, Robbie. He is a thirteen year old who believes his seventeen year old babysitter is his soulmate. Of course she doesn't think so and is actually in love with Cal. This leads to plenty of awkward scenes later on.

I will leave it up to you to weave the pieces together. It is not all that hard to see how everything is going to play out, just remember the rule of economy of characters. None of them is an island, there is a connection between virtual all of the major parts here. This is whee the real fun of the movie lies. While Cal is the only character even close to being fully fleshed out, there are enough moments with the other characters to believe they are real.

The movie alternately gives some nice moments that attempt an emotional truth, in particular he quieter scenes later on between Cal and Jacob. However, the movie takes a few turns towards slapstick, which prove to be momentarily uproariously funny. These two sides, despite their superficiality, both work on their own but together make for a rather schizophrenic final movie that doesn't quite work on it's own.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a movie that succeeds on a couple of things. One is Steve Carell's ability to navigate both sides of the movie. Another is Ran Gosling's charisma. Another is in individual moments and scenes. Finally, the hint of depth to the characters that never quite come to the surface but threatens to push it over the top.

Is the movie worth seeing? Sure, so long as you don't expect anything huge. While you are not likely to learn anything about relationships, I dare you not to laugh at the interactions of Carell and Marisa Tomei, or the family reunion, or even Gosling's "move." certainly funny, but nothing particularly special or groundbreaking.

I laughed, but it is not a good movie. It is entertainment, to be sure, but it is filled with missed moments. I liked it for what it was, but it is sure to be forgotten in the near future.

Mildly Recommended.

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