Class act romantic comedy that surpasses even the definitions of my highest standards for the genre. There are hardly more heavenly things in life than finding a perfect comedy that transports you to elated highs, and in addition to that, Crazy Stupid Love is a wake-up call that an entire rom-com can actually exist without any lowbrow or synthetically bad lines. To find a comedy that is actually recognizable to real life isn’t just a refreshment, it’s a birth model to everything a comedy should be. Steve Carell is like a virgin who just so happened to be lucky enough to have been married by twenty. Only now, his mid-life crisis wife Julianne Moore demands a divorce. In his mid-forties he has become unfamiliar with cocktail lounges and with the stages of getting drunk, and he messily reverberates that he is a “cuckold” a dozen times as a wallow for sympathy. Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook,” “Half Nelson”) is a womanizer with all the right moves who is idolized because he is every inch what he says he is, and he is enthusiastically romantic. Gosling will take Carell under his wing to turn him around into an attractive, confident man.
This movie’s relevance is on the embarrassment of how we lose ability to love effectively, or how we lose ability to be cool and with it, or how we lose the ability to engage in sexy talk or flattering desirables of the opposite sex.
Then again the most pinnacle hot topic “Crazy Stupid Love” explores is the anxiety and drooped self-esteem that comes with midlife crisis. Every fan has loved Carell from TV’s “The Office” and most everything since his starring debut in “The 40-Year Old Virgin.” We are keen on Carell’s pitch-perfect take on virginity, social awkwardness, out of fashion schmo-ness, and yet the redeemable tail-wagging doggy loyalty that he has mastered in his comedy career. It only made sense in this career projectile that Carell would get to play a new divorcee on the heels of midlife crisis (he didn’t know he was falling into one until his wife was fed up by him). The ever-desirable Gosling is the natural born stud that will teach his sad sack friend how to talk pick-up lingo and how to upgrade his wardrobe from the Gap.
“Crazy Stupid Love” is about midlife crisis, and also about the stupid ways we overboard in either splitting off something that’s good or how we overboard with love, and also how we transition in appearances during inner and outer reinvention. Carell gets a natural big laugh because he positively looks spruce-goosed in his new look. Gosling has a captivating naughtiness, the kind of irresistible ladykiller that seems to have X-rays into the minds of every woman he meets and tasers them with what they want to hear. Tomei which shouldn’t go unsaid is wonderful as a woman often in her past spurned by bulldozer men.
Reaching beyond a mere single-file story, “Crazy Stupid Love” is actually a tapestry where we follow the lives of Carell’s children, particularly his son who is smitten in love with his babysitter. As well as the babysitter who is actually in love with the unbeknownst Carell. As well as the shimmering Marisa Tomei (“The Wrestler”) whom is the first woman Carell is able to ply down in conversation for more than two minutes while in his singledom.
Given depth more seriously is Moore’s confliction as being the one who left the marriage and severed her family. She has to overcome her guilty conscience and rebound into being a new self with a direction (Kevin Bacon tries to be that guy, he is so real as the guy who tries to wheeze himself into getting her children’s approval). And I never at all understood the appeal of Emma Stone (“Superbad”) not until this movie for which I became compelled by her performance as an overly studious, work-focused nerd that has never been in kissy-face distance with a real beefcake before, honestly in need of a chill pill to shake away her anal-retentiveness. She is yet another comical feature in a film ripe of pleasures.
I want to play devil’s advocate for a minute. I said before that the movie didn’t contain any dumbed-down lines of dialogue. An exception can almost be made for one scene where Moore acts a little too slow to notice the juiciness between her ex-husband and another woman sending out double messages. But I even found that funny because to me it revealed that Moore was not ready to see that her husband could possibly be romantically active with a half dozen or even one woman.
I also believe it would be a mistake to nitpick its most standout screwball jamboree sequence. The backyard festivity that smashes headlong into coincidence in the last act of the movie is, well,coincidence. But the movies are about one in a million coincidences and “Crazy Stupid Love” leads to a construction that ends with one, not beginning preposterously with one. The hurtle of coincidence have been so credibly well constructed that it earns its deliverance, thus honoring a tradition that has been seen in the movies all the way back to 1938’s “Bringing Up Baby” and certainly earlier in times past when “screwball comedy” was invented.
Nothing is thrifty here, the charms of the movie never wear down. If you are a sucker for movies like I am where the hero casts aside his humility to make a statement in a big grandstanding speech before an audience to win back something treasured, á la Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman,” then Carell here offers us a classic. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (“Cars 2” and “Tangled”) knows how genuine hearted people in this world are willing to go overboard for love because here are characters that believe one in a million chances are worth risking public humiliating. The film is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa whose first film was last year’s “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” and they seem to know better than other filmmakers on how to direct their secondary actors and extras in how to gawk, observe surprise, snigger and chuckle believably when a man interrupts an auditorium to make an impromptu speech, one that is all the better because it manages to frame itself in relative sanity.
“Crazy Stupid Love” is the best grown-up comedy since 2003’s “Sideways.” It doesn’t have gratuitous anatomy obsessed humor or synthetic throwaway piss-and-ick lines like a Judd Apatow production, I feel that even the best of Apatow has its degraded moments. What we have here is nothing less that wonderful, affectionate and uncommonly embracing.
118 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ROMANTIC COMEDY / INNER NERD APPEAL / MONTH OF FEBRUARY MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Starting Over” (1979); “About a Boy” (2002); “Hitch” (2005); “The 40 Year Old Virgin” (2005).