Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Well, it's half right.

When the credits rolled on Crazy, Stupid, Love I noticed that it credited two directors – Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. That’s when I understood the wildly different tonal shifts, multiple (unnecessary) subplots, and why Crazy, Stupid, Love feels like three different movies in one.

Cal (Steve Carell) and wife Emily (Julianne Moore) are getting a divorce. She’s slept with a colleague at work (Kevin Bacon in a meatless role) and she wants out. Cal is heartbroken. He’s moves out of the house and into a small apartment, spending his nights at a nameless club where he drinks vodka-cranberries and grumbles about his wife’s affair for the entire bar to hear. He’s in a sad state of affairs – and so is the movie at this point.

Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling) the sympathetic womanizer (do these people exist in the real world?) who takes Cal under his wing to give him a make-over and regain the confidence that he’s lost. Gosling is without a doubt the strongest part of the film as Jacob, exuding charisma and charm effortlessly while also showing tenderness and vulnerability in quieter scenes. He’s a fully-fleshed out character in a film of half-cooked ones.

That’s the biggest problem of Crazy, Stupid, Love – it loves all of its characters so much that it doesn’t realize that the film would be better if it cut a few…or four. There’s the seventeen year-old babysitter of the family who is given way too much screen time harboring a secret crush on Cal, which leads to a queasy and uncomfortable subplot (having seen David Schwimmer’s sexual predator film Trust a few days before certainly didn’t help matters). There’s David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), the man Emily has an affair with, who’s given a handful of scenes to smile and laugh at her before the obligatory confrontation scene with Cal. Then there’s Cal and Emily’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who spends the film  waxing philosophically about soul mates and true love and urges his Dad to “fight” for his mother if she really means something to him. I don’t think he has a scene without mentioning “love” or some variation thereof – he’s a little too sweet.

There’s a great movie itching to claw its way out of this one. Crazy, Stupid, Love has its moments of brilliance (such as rumbling jungle music accompanying Ryan Gosling – to show what a stud he is) and there’s a fantastic climatic scene that eschews our expectations of the “Grand Romantic Moment”  and gathers all the characters together for conflict and a surprising revelation. There’s also poignancy, anchored by a strong performance by Steve Carell in the film’s third act where he’s tried to make things right and has only succeeded in making them worse. He has a powerful scene with Ryan Gosling where he utters a single sentence that breaks his former mentor. It’s just too bad that all these great moments had to be bogged down by awful subplots, one-note characters, and a meandering storyline that oftentimes will ignore the main thread (Cal and Emily’s crumbling marriage) in favor of creating new ones (Robbie loves his babysitter, Gosling falls for Emma Stone). A few more months in the editing room would’ve done this film wonders.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is unsure about what it wants to be. It’s sold as a simple romantic comedy, but it’s more complex than that. It has a plot line that seems like a Hitch clone. It has emotionally poignant and affecting moments, but it also has that Ryan Gosling jungle music. In short, it needs more confidence in what it’s trying to say. And it may help if it wasn’t directed by two different people – one who thought they were making a comedy and another who thought they were making a drama.

Grade: C+

Side note: I know that I haven’t mentioned Emma Stone that much in this review. Yes, she is in the movie. Unfortunately most of the arc of her story has been told in the trailer (i.e. she ends up seeing Gosling’s abs) and she isn’t in the film all that much (ten minutes, tops). Just be aware that even though she’s featured prominently in the advertising for the film, her role is mostly a glorified cameo.


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