Sounding like a promising romantic comedy at first glance considering a plentifully talented cast, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is only a mildly entertaining and occasionally fun venture into a genre that can easily be regarded as the most cookie-cutter, tired and banal in the industry. That is not to say that there are not great romantic comedies out there and that is not to say that this film in particular is bad. But as I watched, I noticed that these actors are not quite on their A-game. Maybe because the script is not equal to the star power.
That said, this marks an unusual turn for actor Ryan Gosling, whose previous roles (“The Notebook,” “Half Nelson” and “Blue Valentine”) have all been played with the straightest of face. He has never been allowed to play a role with this much indulgence and ends up being the most memorable part of a not-so-memorable film.
Gosling plays an irresistibly charming womanizer named Jacob, who makes picking up attractive young ladies at local bars look like an art form. He is the kind of guy who can excel at life on his words alone, and the task he voluntarily takes on is to help Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) overcome a crippling divorce from his wife Emily (Julianne Moore). The beginning of the end for the married couple of twenty-five years is on date night at a restaurant, where Emily abruptly blurts out a demand for divorce and subsequently states that she has had an affair with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), one of her slick coworkers.
Jacob and Cal’s first exchange at the bar consists of marking everything that Cal is doing wrong with himself, from his fashion sense to his conversational skills to his importunate dwelling on his ex-wife. These observations prompt one of the best lines in the movie when Jacob states, “I don’t know whether I should help you or euthanize you.” Regardless, Cal agrees to take lessons from the master and put himself back on the market. Through a few minor changes to his look and character, he ends up having a brief fling with a character played by Marisa Tomei, who may contribute most of the ‘crazy’ to the film’s title.
Meanwhile, Jacob may have hit an expected roadblock of his own. One night at the bar, he gets rejected by a young woman named Hannah (Emma Stone), who actually has a boyfriend of her own. But through a strange turn of events that may or may not be considered material and/or important plot points (spoilers in a romcom? Pshhh.), something finally occurs to the charismatic chauvinist that has never happened to him before in his years of one-night stands: he may be falling in love. He may actually care for this girl.
Also in the crazy stupid mix is a subplot involving Cal’s thirteen-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) in romantic pursuit of the family babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is four years older than him. And even for a hormonally imbalanced teenager, he concocts some pretty outlandish gestures and schemes in order to express his love and (in high hopes) win the girl’s affections. The problem is that Jessica does not reciprocate the feelings he has for her and that she is instead pining for someone older than him. In fact, MUCH older.
All of these threads finally culminate in a big argument-slash-rumble-slash-misunderstanding in the Weavers’ backyard. But while the large cast of characters may sound like something that would work in the movie’s favor, it also brings a few problems to the table. Having so many individuals to keep up with, we end up spending more time with some than others and entire thirds of the film focus on maybe two of the many main characters. Even at two solid hours, the stories feel a little crammed together and condensed for the sake of a compact running time.
But having said all this, I enjoyed “Crazy, Stupid, Love” a little bit more than I did “Friends With Benefits.” It is sometimes funny and every now an again sweet, which is more than half of the movies adhering to one of the two genres can brag about. But other than Gosling’s great performance, there is not really anything else I can say that is a reason why you cannot just wait for DVD on this one.