BOTTOM LINE: A sweet, insightful multi-storyline romantic comedy that will make audiences want to fall in love again.
It’s always such a delight to see a well-acted multi-storyline romantic comedy that isn’t unreasonably cheesy. The last time we got one of those was when Love, Actually came out (was that really eight years ago?). Unfortunately, movies like Valentine’s Day, He’s Just Not That Into You, and New York, I Love You have since sullied the genre’s reputation.
Luckily, Crazy, Stupid, Love rights all the wrongs that have been committed. In fact, it may be one of the best adult romantic comedies in recent years. Buoyed by a fantastic cast, an honest script, and a finely tuned balance of comedy, romance, and drama, the film toes the line between indie and mainstream without losing the best qualities of either.
Steve Carell and Julianne Moore star as Cal and Emily, a middle-aged couple whose 25-year marriage is brought to a crashing halt when Emily admits she slept with her coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Heartbroken but unwilling to fight, Cal moves out and meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a charismatic ladies man who grooms Cal and teaches him the ins and outs of picking up women at bars. While Cal tries (and fails) to get over Emily, his 13-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), is having girl problems of his own: he’s in love with his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), but she doesn’t return his feelings because she’s in love with an older man: his father.
All the while, Hannah (Emma Stone) isn’t getting what she wants out of her relationship with self-obsessed lawyer Richard (Josh Groban). Although she initially turns down a come-on from Jacob in a bar, she returns for him after she takes her bar exam, determined to make her life a little less PG-13 — with surprising results.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a great film all around. It’s funny, provocative, sweet, and insightful. Best of all, the acting is superb. Stone is awkwardly loveable, as always, and Carell proves once again that he’s just as good in serious roles as he is in comedic ones. Newcomer Tipton also holds her own in her role, which is more central to the story than the marketing suggests.
Surprisingly, Gosling is the film’s standout. He’s shown a tendancy for gritty, tortured characters in the past, so seeing him let loose and flex his comic muscles (and his muscles, period, really) is a lovely surprise. He’s unbelievably charming as Jacob, making it all too easy to grudgingly forgive his character’s chauvinistic behaviour.
The writing is great, with well-timed laughs and plenty of sincerity in the tearful moments. Writer Dan Fogelman (Cars, Tangled) brings the subtle mix of adult sensibility and child-like understanding that makes Pixar films resonate with audiences of all ages. Perhaps that’s why Crazy, Stupid, Love works so well — it’s a light-hearted movie that does heavy themes justice. Instead of trying to pigeonhole love into one pithy statement, the filmmakers let the terrifying concept unfold naturally through a series of scenes that feel — at times gut-wrenchingly — true to life.
Most audience members will find at least one storyline to relate to in Crazy, Stupid, Love. It never quite achieves crazy or stupid, but there’s enough love to make up for that. The film speaks directly to everyone who is in love, has been in love, and yearns to be in love. While it’s by no means a masterpiece, at the very least it serves as a much-needed escape from this summer’s big, noisy blockbusters.