Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Review: "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
"Crazy, Stupid, Love." reminded me of bits and pieces of movies I love, and that's always a good thing. And yet it does not feel like a rip-off or a rehash, but exists entirely as its own creation.
It's the story of Cal and Emily Weaver, high school sweethearts turned unhappily marrieds played by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. Going over the dessert menu at dinner, he asks her what she wants and she announces that, after 25 years, she wants a divorce. This actually represents the high point of their evening.
But it's also the tale of Jacob, a smooth ladies' man who trolls his favorite nightclub like a shark hunting territorial waters. He wields pick-up lines and brash confidence as weapons to subdue his prey: pretty, gullible women. "You wanna get outta here?" is the final thrust of his attack, and when they leave with him Jacob notches another triumph.
Jacob spots Cal pathetically pouring his heart out at the bar, post-breakup, and resolves to help him. There's the superficial makeover stuff, of course, like ditching Cal's New Balance sneakers and Gap-meets-apathy wardrobe. More tellingly, Jacob wants to turn sweet-faced Cal into a killer like himself.
"I'm gonna help you rediscover your manhood," Jacob promises.
Jacob is played by Ryan Gosling, not exactly known for playing the sort of slick, shallow pretty boys we've seen entirely too much on screens lately (*cough cough* Ryan Reynolds *cough*). Later Gosling will get a chance to show off the superficial jerk's uncharted depths.
Other characters, who had been standing around the edges of the story, unexpectedly rush to the fore and briefly hold the center. Chief among them is Hannah (Emma Stone), a smart young woman about to take the bar exam and become a patent attorney. She and Jacob briefly meet early in the movie, and she is the one gal who sees through his shtick and blows him off, and yet we are certain they will meet again.
Gosling and Stone share the greatest non-seduction seduction scene in the history of cinema -- probably also the first, but then that's something, too.
Then there is Jessica, the Weavers' 17-year-old babysitter. She has her own dimensions and secret hopes, and is skillfully and heartwarmingly played by Analeigh Tipton, who I learn is a famous model in real life, but here is unaware of her beauty. Tipton has a great scene where Jessica tries to do something that is entirely out of her character, and fumbles at it charmingly.
And then we have Robbie, the Weavers' 13-year-old son, in an arresting performance by Jonah Bobo. Robbie is a hopeless romantic, but is also pretty observant about adult behavior, and has his parents' dilemma figured out perhaps better than they themselves do. I adored Robbie for his spontaneous, unembarrassed declarations of unrequited love -- and also for the way he stares down David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), the jerk who stole his mom away from his dad.
I was thinking that I would enjoy an entire film about Robbie, and that's when it struck me that screenwriter Dan Fogelman ("Tangled") has given us at least a half-dozen characters who are each deserving of their own movie. Heck, most flicks don't even give us one.
Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa do a masterful job juggling the tone of "Crazy, Stupid Love.", which is often excruciatingly funny and sometimes mournful, and yet feels like it comes into these moods naturally rather than veering into them to facilitate the plot.
This is the sort of movie that shows us human emotions rather than tells us what they are supposed to look like. Like with Cal, who sneaks back to his former home at night to tend to the garden he knows has slipped Emily's mind. That's the whole of the man, in a moment.
3.5 stars out of four