The list of good, serious romantic comedies that have been produced in the last decade is decidedly short. (This does not include one of my personal favorites The Devil Wears Prada because, if as anything, it may be a chick flick, but the only romance going on is between me and Meryl Streep’s sinfully good role…and the Jimmy Chu heels.) There was You’ve Got Mail a decade ago, Music & Lyrics (which I really enjoyed, and…and… This is where we hit a road block. The last great romantic comedy was 1989’s charmer When Harry Met Sally…, but that was over 20 years ago.
Now we have the interesting, maybe sometimes polarizing Crazy, Stupid Love. Brought to you by Glenn Ficarra and Josh Requa (who directed I Love You, Phillip Morris) and written by Dan Fogelman (who wrote Disney’s Tangled), Crazy, Stupid Love is a little bit of a departure from the normal romantic comedy. It has elements of the Hitch-like “hot guy helps sad sack get laid”, the “driven career woman/girl can’t find love”, and all sorts of various genre conventions that are jumbled up to make something relatively original.
At the center of the film is mostly Steve Carrell, who was recently cuckolded (as he likes to blather on and on in a bar) by his wife of many years, Julianne Moore (whose role is kind of thankless). His wallowing in self-pity at a local bar prompts Ryan Gosling, who seems to be able to just look at a woman and get her to sleep with him, to help the sad sack in moving on with his life. There’s that kind of bromancey relationship. Then there’s Gosling himself, who falls into the trap of losing the game and falling in love with a perky law student played by Emma Stone. The game changer! And then there’s Carrell and Moore’s son, who pines relentlessly after his 17 year old baby sitter, who, in turn, has set her sight a bit higher.
Despite being marketed (almost ad nauseum) as a comedy, it’s a fairly serious film. It’s kind of funny, and there are laughs, but Crazy Stupid Love is much more dramedy than straight out romantic comedy. Carrell and Moore’s chemistry is good, but their broken relationship touches the viewer like a not-yet-healed wound. Robbie’s attempts to win over Jessica are desperate and a little cringe worthy. The soulless, hollowness of Jacob’s (Gosling) man smuttiness allows for the character to become more vulnerable later, instead of deathly two dimensional. Hannah’s naiveté regarding love is something we’ve all experienced.
What is interesting about the film is its introspection and subtle investigation of how love can be and how it’s utilized across three spectrums of “ages”. The married couple, the new adults falling for each other, the teens. The inconsistent tone that one feels watching the film (the highs, lows, etc.) don’t make the film any worse, or jar the viewer much. Instead, it adds a sense of realism to it, almost as if the tone were inherently crafted to mimic how insane, how crazy and stupid love can be.
Steve Carrell plays the straight man for the most part, almost like a competent Michael Scott. His performance meshes excellently with Ryan Gosling’s, whose caddishness seems natural, yet also hints at the character layers. Emma Stone and Julianne Moore are fine, and while they have great dramatic moments, one’s eye is always looking for the men. However, my hat goes off to Marisa Tomei. Still sexy after all these years (okay, she’s 47, so she’s not that old), the Oscar winning actress plays a deliciously oddball, indignant teacher whom Cal (Carrell) sleeps with but never calls back. If her role in What Women Want had been transported to the future, it would look something like this. The woman goes all out, being completely emphatic in her hatred for Carrell. And I have to hand it to her; she did it all while looking top notch. (Nailing every line, also check her out in her Oscar winning role in My Cousin Vinny and her dramatic turn in The Wrestler.)
Dramatic and a bit shaky, with too much slow motion, Crazy Stupid Love, in essence, emulates almost perfectly how it feels to be in love. Which means that, like love, it is not perfect. It may seem perfect sometimes, but its flaws are all over the place, plain to see. But you accept them regardless, because, it’s crazy and stupid to do so.