Most of the time, when I hear comedy, my mind automatically races to some of the biggest recent hits, which most of have been rated R. And when men hear the term “romantic comedy,” there is usually a groan while women are usually game for it, but recent generic flops have swayed most people away from looking forward to this bland and predictable genre. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” fits under neither of these categories and while the story is familiar, the humor is sophisticated and fresh and the cast members give stellar performances in each of their unique roles.
When the film opens, we see Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) out to dinner, and from the first shot of them, you can see their differences — she is in her business suit and heels and he is in worn-out tennis shoes. When Emily blurts out in the middle of dinner that she wants a divorce, Cal instantly retreats into himself and shuts down. There is a funny scene on the car ride home in which he tells her that he will sign whatever she wants, but to just stop talking, and, of course, out of guilt she just keeps talking to the point where Cal opens the door and falls out of the car while it’s still moving.
Cal packs his things and leaves right away and decides to drown his sorrows at a local bar. He immediately starts declaring to everyone in the bar that his wife cheated on him and wants a divorce. After two nights of this, a playboy named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) decides to take pity on him and tells him that he will help him rediscover his manhood and his identity, but first he needs a serious wardrobe makeover.
We then get a hysterical shopping montage in which Gosling really shows us for the first time his comedic side, with some of the best straight delivery of jokes and quips that I have seen in a long time. Afterwards, Jacob takes Cal out to observe him picking up random women and taking one or two home every night. The biggest surprise from these two characters isn’t their obvious chemistry, but the fact that Gosling is the funnier one in the film. While Carell’s character Cal spends the majority of the time broken-hearted or trying to be a ladies’ man to forget about his broken marriage, he still manages to bring in his specialty of dead-pan humor.
There is a plethora of great supporting roles in this film as well. We have Robbie (Jonah Bobo), Cal’s 13 year-old son, who is in love with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who has a crush on Cal. We also have: David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), an accountant at Emily’s job who she slept with prior to telling Cal that she wanted a divorce; Hannah (Emma Stone), who is graduating from law school and settling for her boring boyfriend Richard (Josh Groban) until her best friend Liz (Liza Lapira) convinces her that she needs some R-rated fun in her life; and last, but not least, Kate (Marisa Tomei) who is the first woman Steve Carell picks up at the bar using his new knowledge learned from Jacob on how to seduce women. All of them did outstanding jobs and each played to their specific comedic strengths and that’s what helps this film rise above mediocrity, the smart and witty banter from the writers and how each performance focused on that actors specific type of humor.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the second main couple in this ensemble film and his connection with her makes him re-evaluate his lifestyle and how he approaches women. His normal lines and moves don’t seem to affect her the way it does with every girl and they have a deeper connection right away.
There is a big third act reveal where things get so crazy and out-of-control that it was just funny scenario on top of funny scenario and so on. If your audience is anything like the one I saw the film with, it will be non-stop laughter for a good two to three minutes.
The bottom line is that although the story and scenarios have been seen before, the clever dialogue and performances by each of the actors and the chemistry between the couples make for a funny and sometimes moving film in which you root for all of it to work out.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is rated PG-13 for course humor, sexual content and language. It opens in theaters July 29.
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