by Steve Habrat
Here is the ugly truth about the romantic comedy genre: The well has run dry! In the past years, it has had nothing new to offer on the topic of love, romance, and the comedy has sure been nonexistent. The genre has been forced to evolve in the most bizarre ways imaginable. It has stopped limiting itself to heterosexual relationships and branched out into “bromance” films, which include movies like the innocently hilarious I Love You, Man, the coming-of-age Superbad and the Adam Sandler monstrosity I Know Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Sadly, the bromance films were just acting as the placebo tablet to the sickly genre that was riddled with cancer in the form of Kate Hudson. They were a nice distraction from the obvious but they refused to break new ground. They just remained stationary and unprogressive. We laughed it up but by the time we got The Hangover Part II, I think most people had had more than enough of the man and man action.
Thankfully, in saunters the confident and unapologetic Crazy, Stupid, Love and it is just in the nick of time. Goldie Locks Kate attempted once this summer and critics hissed in disgust but Steve Carell and his merry gang of gifted, pretty faces saved the day. The truly amazing aspect is that Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the best films of the year so far. The film is teeming with life and it manages to be reassuring for the genre and the audience itself. The film covers all the stops when it comes to love and infatuation all the while fluffing off its PG-13 rating with a devil-may-care charm. Carell plays Cal, a slouchy everyman who appears to be just going through the motions of his marriage. He’s plain and downright insipid. He can’t talk to his wife Emily (Played by Julianne Moore) about anything over dinner except the fact that he ate too much bread and now he’s full. He now finds himself faced with the horrorific decision of what to order. Suddenly, Emily announces she wants a divorce from her husband of twenty-five years. She proceeds to tell him she has slept with someone else and she needs out. Cal is devastated and becomes a self-pitying sad sack.
While sulking in a posh bar, Cal meets Jacob (Played by the always welcome Ryan Gosling), a suave smooth talker who has no problem luring the ladies to bed. He approaches Cal and tells him he can make him over from the bumbling dud into a self-assured stud. He does and the transformation is downright side splitting. But Jacob soon decides to leave the game in pursuit of a sexy, over-achieving law student named Hannah (Played by Emma Stone, who appears to be everywhere this summer!).
Crazy, Stupid, Love is loaded with side stories and appealing background characters that make the film a joy to behold from second to second. The jokes are fast and the subject matter bold but the film presents it in such a sweet manner that you can’t be disgusted by it even if you tried. Even when the film finds itself at the most envelope pushing moments, know that the film is going to deliver one of the most satisfying payoffs imaginable. I won’t spoil too much of the raucous antics that follow, but it all adds up to a ten minute sequence that will have you howling with laughter. It all plays into the theme of the movie—love is crazy and we all act stupid in the face of it. When the bombshell Marisa Tomei shows up as horn ball teacher that Cal woos to bed, Cal lights up like a kid at Christmas when she asks what he wants to do with her in the throws of passion. Trust me, you will die laughing from his response. I guess when love and lust strike, we are all reduced to behaving like children.
The film boasts a shot-on-the-fly vérité approach at points and this adds to the down-to-earth mentality of the film. It has moments of raw emotion, especially in a scene where the separated Cal and Emily meet up at a parent/teacher conference. They have a heart-to-heart that will have many audience members’ eyes welling up with crocodile tears. The film hits exceptionally hard when it chooses but I guess that’s what love does—it hits us hard when we least expect it. Furthermore, love itself can be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, just like the film. One second it will have us beaming and the next, we will be at its mercy. It gets us to lower our defenses and then it strikes. That, my dear friends, is what solid scriptwriting and filmmaking is all about.
I can only hope and pray with everything in me that this film is remembered come awards season. I hope that the Academy will be willing to sift through all the rubble from those superheroes and rediscover this gem. It’s taboo and reassuring all at the same time. You will fall head over heels for Carell and Gosling, both who play their characters as if they will never have another chance to be in front of the camera again. Moore plays the moist eyed Emily with her heart on her sleeve. She’s despicable in one moment and the grabbing our empathy the next. Stone brings her usual girl-next-door charm to Hannah. She is an actress to keep a close eye on and Crazy, Stupid, Love allows her to really convey some depth.
From the performances to the directing to the finely weaved story, Crazy, Stupid, Love is a finely polished piece of filmmaking. One that will be calling you back to take some comfort in it again even if you are not particularly bumming from lost love at the moment. I think it calls us back because these characters seem so real that we sincerely enjoy being in their company. It also features something literally everyone can relate to in some manner. In a summer filled with larger than life pictures released every Friday, this small, intimate portrait of emotion is the one that will leave the biggest impression on the viewer. Rejoice that the romantic comedy is still holding on to dear life. There’s still some life in that old dog yet! I can’t recommend this film enough. Grade: A