Just last week, I bemoaned the sad state of romantic comedies in my review of Will Gluck’s Friends with Benefits, a film which I surprisingly enjoyed. Despite its fine points, it didn’t make me stand up and say… “Wow! That was a good movie!” While I don’t expect every romantic comedy to be Annie Hall, or When Harry Met Sally, filmmakers should at least aspire to make something half as fresh as those two genre classics. As I scoured a list of rom-coms on everybody’s favorite encyclopedia, I came to a conclusion that they’ve been only five truly fantastic American romantic comedies released in the last six years: The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 500 Days of Summer and now Crazy, Stupid Love.
Endearing to the core, this captivating film, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and written by Dan Fogelman, is just the type of movie more romantic comedies should aspire to be like! It’s fresh, funny, intelligent, sincere, teeming with fully realized characters that are wonderfully played by a winning cast led by Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling and just damn good fun. Though it falters a bit in its final act, the sum of its parts is more than enough to classify itself as one of the best movies of this mediocre summer.
Carrell plays Cal Weaver, a 40-something suburban family man whose life is obliterated in the film’s opening sequence when his wife Emily (the always magnificent Julianne Moore) suddenly declares that she had a one-night-stand with a coworker (Kevin Bacon) and thus wants a divorce. Devastated by the news, Cal takes refuge at a neighborhood hot spot, and turns to alcohol and anyone who will listen to him mope about his now ruined life.
His pathetic behavior eventually catches the attention of Jacob Palmer (Gosling), a rich, stylish and incredibly suave ladies man who frequents the bar. Pitying Cal, he decides to take the older man under his wing for the sheer sake of it and gives and transforms him from a dweeb into a Don Juan beaming with confidence. On the other end, while Cal is out conquering the galaxy (and cougars like Marisa Tomei), Jacob falls for Hannah (Emma Stone), a witty law school grad who happens to be the one woman immune to his shtick.
The final key to this multi-generational romantic-laugher is a sweet sub-plot revolving around Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his crush on 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who just so happens to harbor a crush on Cal.
The way these characters’ arcs come to a conclusion is not only beautiful, but surprising and hilarious! It’s a confirmation of the talents of Fogelman (previous credits include the critically admired animated hits Cars, Bolt and Tangled) and directors Ficarra and Requa who, after their terrific (and supremely underrated) directorial debut I Love You, Phillip Morris, prove that they’re well on the way to becoming one of biggest rising talents in the biz.
The ever-dependable Carrell, who recently wrapped up a long stint on NBC’s The Office, is sublime as the dorky Cal who turns his life around and vows to win back his soul mate. It’s his best work since Little Miss Sunshine. Gosling, taking a break from his hardcore serious roles, proves why he’s widely regarded as arguably the best actor under 35 working today. Even though he plays a shameless lothario who looks like a photoshopped Michelangelo sculpture and sports some ridiculous outfits, Gosling gives him a likeable vibe that makes you want to know more. Along with this role, the bound-to-be cult classic Drive and future Oscar-heavyweight The Ides of March coming this fall, Gosling is bound to hit the stratosphere of stardom.
Though they don’t get as much screen time as their male counterparts, both Moore and Stone have enough to work with to make their characters more than cheap one-dimensional stereotypes. Moore, last seen in the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right remains one of Hollywood’s finest actresses and it’s nice to see her in a bright mainstream release as this. Stone, who has just shot to the top of my crush list after I recently caught the fantastic Easy A, continues to impress me with the spectrum of her comedic range. Young Bobo and Tipton also register in their key roles while Tomei is a flat-out riot in her brief time on-screen. Bacon is the only one who doesn’t get much to do but that’s probably because his character seems tacked on.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the finest romantic comedies I’ve seen in ages. With a terrific cast, led by Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling, a charming screenplay and a wonderful story that should hit all major demos, this is a must-see effort from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Don’t miss it!