Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. 118 minutes. PG
“That is such a cliche.” So says Steve Carell’s character as a rain storm suddenly pours down after his lowest moment in Crazy Stupid Love.
If you’ve only seen the trailer (with that overly swelling Muse soundtrack), you might be tempted to say the same about the romantic dramedy, which documents in a semi-Love, Actually style, the various types and stages of L-O-V-E. And indeed, there are plenty of expected and not-totally-fresh feel good moments throughout the film. However, like a solid long-term relationship, there are just enough surprises to keep you not only interested but genuinely excited. Some are crazy (Josh Groban–yes, that Josh Groban–playing a lawyer!?). Some are stupid (Marisa Tomei jumping Steve Carell’s bones with crazy eyed aplomb). But most of it is just, to quote Eliza Doolittle, loverly. Really, really, really loverly.
The main story (as I said, there are several) is an all-too-familiar one, both in real and reel life. Cal and Emily, (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore), a middle-aged couple and former high school sweethearts, are forced to separate after one of them (Moore) becomes restless with their non-heated sex life and has a reckless affair with a coworker (Kevin Bacon). He moves into a second-rate bachelor pad. She stays in their gorgeous suburban house with the kids. No one is truly happy.
One night, as Cal drowns his sorrows in a vodka cran at a local singles watering hole, he’s befriend by Jacob (a tanned and tenacious Ryan Gosling), a perfectly coiffed womanizer with a secretly perfect heart. Jake gives him a haircut, a new, properly fitted wardrobe and very specific instructions on how to approach a lady suitor. Seeing as Cal was previously a one-woman-man, he struggles a bit with the transition. But as soon as he scores his first one-night-stand, he’s a whole new, confident dude. But does he really love the single life, or is he still just pining away for his wife?
As Cal attempts to cope with losing what he thought was the love of his life, Jacob falls in love for the first time. The extremely lucky (Jake’s stomach situation looks like it’s been, to quote one character, “Photoshopped”) lady? Whip smart, but slightly gutless twentysomething lawyer, Hannah (the ever-gorgeous, ever-hilarious Emma Stone of Easy A). The problem is, Hannah is already attached to a douchebag (the previously mentioned Groban) and Jake, well, he doesn’t quite know how to woo a traditional, non-easy-going (if you know what I mean) gal.
There are a few other storylines, including one involving Cal and Emily’s son (Jonah Bobo, Zathura) and his overwhelming attraction to his older babysitter (If Demi and Ashton can do it, why can’t they!?) and another involving said babysitter’s (Analeigh Tipton, TV’s Hung) overwhelming attraction to Cal. But they border on cutesy and inappropriate at the best of times. It’s easy to overlook them though, especially once Jacob and Hannah’s story really starts up.
Carell and Moore are stunning as Cal and Emily (Carell, especially, showing the nuanced emotional range he gave, but no one really saw in Dan in Real Life) but Gosling and Stone are what make the film a true head-turner. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa should have spent more time with the white hot duo. Not only are they fantastic individual actors (Gosling lets superbly loose, showing us why he started his career in comedy–Breaker High, bay-bee!–and why he will eventually win an Oscar), their chemistry is positively sparkling. Whether they’re trying out a massage chair or reenacting a famous romantic movie scene, you can’t keep your eyes off them.
Gosling and Stone would be nothing, however, without the sincerely charming script, courtesy of Dan Fogelman. Think of this film as the near-perfect summer rom-dram you wanted The Kids Are All Right to be. Sure, it doesn’t break any new ground in terms of diversity like that film, but it’s messages are, and I believe were meant to be, universal.
Fogelman may be more familiar with fantasy (he wrote the animated flicks, Cars and Tangled), but Crazy, Stupid, Love is lighter than you’d expect bloated fairytale tropes and too-hopeless romanticism to be, and fairly heavy on relatable realities: feelings and situations that everyone has or has seen someone else experience (unrequited crushes, failed pick-up lines, lust) in the pursuit of the L word. The emotions can be, as the title evokes, big and a little messy at times, but hey, isn’t that amore? A