Crazy, Stupid, Love. Review
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are anything but conventional; having followed up the sublimely filthy, un-PC Bad Santa with their directorial debut of two gay con men in love (I Love You Phillip Morris), you’d have got long odds on them helming a romantic comedy that, on the surface at least, appears as straightforward as they come. Guy and girl are in love but separate, guy does everything to win her back etc. However, like the equally brilliant (500) Days Of Summer, Crazy, Stupid, Love. starts off at the breakdown of the relationship but unlike that film, the protagonists aren’t fresh-faced adolescents but are a pair of 40-somethings divorcing after being together since high school. What follows is two hours filled with winning performances from a sterling cast and is in turns hilarious and heartbreaking while, crucially, remaining painfully authentic. Love Actually this ain’t.
During a decision over dessert, Emily (Julianne Moore) tells her husband Cal (Steve Carell) that she wants a divorce revealing that she has cheated on him. Devastated, Cal moves into his own apartment and spends his evenings in a local bar where he meets lothario Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who, depressed with hearing Cal’s moaning every night, takes him under his wing to teach him how to woo the ladies. At the same time, Jacob has had his eyes turned by Hannah (Emma Stone), the one girl that seems immune to his charms.
If Crazy, Stupid, Love. has one obvious flaw, it’s that it is a touch too long given that it takes a while for its dual storylines to bear fruit. It lends a stop-start nature to the overall piece given that it’s rare we spend our time in the company of everyone and instead, after the early scenes with Cal and Jacob that positively fizzle with charm and humour, it becomes a pattern of a long scene (or scenes) with Cal, followed by the same with Jacob. Thanks to performances from a cast on top of their game, it’s never a chore and you enjoy rather than endure it, but you do wonder if the film will end up going anywhere. Any doubts though are lifted by a magnificent scene at the top of the third act that is just deliciously crafted as well as being easily one of the funniest scenes of the year which, in turn, breathes new life into the film that carries it on through to its touching ending.
With its dual storylines, not to mention a couple of sub-plots such as with babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who harbours a crush on Cal, it’s very much of a case of an ensemble cast rather than any one leading character and to a man, they all deliver. Carell is on his finest serio-comic form since Little Miss Sunshine and his scenes with Gosling, showing an adept hand at comedy, deliver some of the movie’s finest moments with Moore (turning a potential villain into someone empathetic and believable) and Stone (just utterly adorable) providing able chemistry to their respective suitors. The supporting cast, in terms of screen time anyway, still manage to almost steal the show though: Marisa Tomei has a blast with a fabulous turn as a recovering alcoholic teacher who Cal gets on the wrong side of and Jonah Bobo is superb as Cal and Emily’s son Robbie who quickly grows up from optimistic youth to cynical adolescent all thanks to love.
While not directing from their own script, Ficarra and Requa still manage to imbue the film with the deft balance of humour and pathos that I Love You Phillip Morris delivered. Every relationship in the film never once feels strained and their realism is what lends the film both its heart and laughter. Scenes often deliver a belly laugh followed swiftly by an emotional gut punch, most powerful with a low-key scene when Cal watches Emily on the phone to him from their old garden that is just heart wrenching. They’re not afraid of romantic comedy convention either, merely deciding to approach it in their own way and by refusing to deliver a film that’s neatly wrapped up come its denouement, it just adds to its believability.
In lesser hands, Crazy, Stupid, Love. could so easily have been a mess due to its interlinking storylines and aim to show as many different angles of love as possible. However, thanks to uniformly excellent performances, a sharp script and excellent direction that places emphasis as much on what is not said as what is, the result is an utterly delightful romantic comedy that will warm even the most jaded of hearts. For anyone who believes the genre has been suffocated by convention in recent years, you owe it to yourself to catch Crazy, Stupid, Love., if only to allow it to restore your belief that there are film makers out there who believe romance is more than just a last-minute dash to the airport.