I really wasn’t expecting much out of Crazy, Stupid, Love. Hollywood romcom-dramas are not my thang, and it has to be said the title and its annoying punctuation didn’t help. Well, you know what’s coming. Yep – thoroughly enjoyed this one!
The set-up is familiar: middle-aged male with the full suburban package – childhood sweetheart wife, kids, secure job, comfortable home – has his predictable existence disrupted when chaos strikes outta the blue. In this case, poor ol’ Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) finds himself a bemused player in the singles market when wife Emily (Julianne Moore) drops a bombshell over dinner, announcing that she has been having an affair with co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce.
Why is it always the poor bloke who has to move out? Whatever, the next we see of Cal he is sitting forlornly at a bar drunkenly relating his tale of woe to anyone who will listen (and some who won’t!). He is befriended by smooth-talkin’ lounge lizard and womaniser Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who offers to tutor him in the art of seduction, beginning with a direly needed sartorial makeover…
Well-worn though this narrative ground is, it is ripe with comedic potential, providing the script and performances deliver. They do – in spades.
Carell is endearing and believable as Cal. Gosling has fun with his lady-killer role and draws on some clever scripting to bring some credibility to his character’s eventual busting out of stereotype (no mean feat!). Jonah Bobo shines as Cal’s love-lorn 13-year-old son Robbie. Marisa Tomei hams it up most enjoyably as a woman scorned in her small part as Kate, Cal’s jilted first singles-bar conquest. Emma Stone is just right as Cal’s twenty-something daughter, sweet and still slightly vulnerable despite her profession (she’s a lawyer). Julianne Moore and Kevin Bacon are not extended in their roles, but do all they need to.
Writer Dan Fogelman focuses on the fundamentals (hooray!) – you know, stuff like characterisation, pacing, tight scripting, well-hewn and witty dialogue – mercifully eschewing self-conscious attempts at ‘originality’ or upending generic conventions. That said, he is not bound by matters of form, either, managing to strike a nice balance between romcom and morality play, and borrowing elements of farce for one laugh-out-loud and utterly ludicrous sequence in which the main players are thrown together in an orgy of cross-purpose talking, mistaken identity and misunderstanding that unravels to set the narrative sails for home. No surprises where we end up, and that’s fine. A touch sentimental, perhaps, but I was won over well before the end and happily gave into it!
OK, this is mainstream Hollywood, and it ain’t gonna change your life or the way you look at cinema, but it’s entertaining and fun, and has heart. It’s a ringing endorsement for getting the script and performances right; attend to the fundamentals and the rest looks after itself. That’s a lesson unheeded by far too many filmmakers, regardless of stylistic orientation or budget.
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