Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
The best date movie of the year. Suck it, New Year’s Eve.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. is about a married couple that separates after the wife sleeps her co-worker and the husband doesn’t even attempt to salvage their relationship. So the husband moves out, tries to meet women at a local bar, but only gets that much more depressed when he realizes that he has absolutely no game. In an act of good faith, a local ladies’ man takes it upon himself to teach the sad, sad husband in the ways of womanizing so that he can get out of his funk, learn to respect himself for the first time in ages, and make his wife rue the day she ever went behind his back. The more they start hanging out and the more women the husband shuffles through his revolving door of smooth-talking and love-making, the more he comes to acknowledge the role he played in his crumbling marriage and that the only thing he truly wants is to win back his wife.
I know, sounds awfully lovey-dovey, but I’m tellin’ ya’, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by how far from a chick flick this ended up being. Then again, despite its all-star cast, despite that it’s directed by the two guys who did I Love You Phillip Morris, and despite that Ryan Gosling is in it, this was a movie I’d never planned on seeing. But when I showed up to Moneyball ten minutes late on opening night, it was either go for the back-up plan or be That Guy who stands right in front of everyone who’s just trying to get their Brad Pitt on. As far as back-up plans are concerned, I don’t even think this was Option C, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it pays to be the good boyfriend.
So what was it about this movie that made me go from “Girl, you owe me,” to “I’ll never doubt you again,” over the course of two hours? The short answer: the script and the cast. But since short answers are for the weak, let’s start with the script and save this cast of thousands for later.
For starters, there’s a lot going on in this script. Julianne Moore splits up with Steve Carell and starts breaking off a piece of her co-worker Kevin Bacon; Steve Carell drinks away his sorrows like the sad bastard he is, becomes the pet project of Ryan Gosling, and starts knocking boots with everything in sight until his heart gets the better of him; Ryan Gosling falls ass over elbows for Emma Stone, so much so that he starts going cold turkey on the whole “Let’s see if I can bang every girl in the tri-state area” feat; Emma Stone develops a Jones for Gosling but can’t act on her emotions ’cause she’s stuck in an awkward relationship with Josh Groban; and Steve Carell’s son is in love with the teenage babysitter, but the teenage babysitter is in love with Steve Carell. Man, it’s been three months since I saw this movie, I deserve a high thirty for remembering all that.
Oh yes, love is in the air, and in lesser hands, an audience could suffocate from it. In situations like these, it’s not uncommon for certain plot lines to feel unnecessary and certain characters to fall by the wayside, but everything’s so interconnected and only becomes so much more so as the story progresses that everyone ends up feel like a main character instead of pleasant diversions. That in itself is pretty darn impressive, but what makes this borderline great is the way it starts with this romcom formula you’ve seen a million times before and takes it in a different direction every time you’re about to guess what’s gonna happen. It’s nothing nuts like Ryan Gosling being born a woman or Kevin Bacon actually being made of bacon, it just keeps throwing curve balls down the pipe that each add a healthy dose of honesty and originality to the mix. The moral of the story is that you need to fight for the people you love and you’re never gonna get there if you wait for love to come knockin’, and while that’s not the most uncharted territory in the history of morals, it’s more about how you go about getting there than it is finally reaching it with this one.
Although there is something a bit backwards about how Carell convinces himself that sleeping around at a wholesale rate is a morally sound way to make his ex fall back in love with him. But on second thought, there’s a reason it’s not called Sane, Smart, Love. Many of the characters here don’t always think about the big picture before they head down a certain road, and as a result, there are many a time that road ends up being a cul-de-sac. The reason it works rather than pitfalls into a cliched mess that might as well be called Valentine’s Day 2: Now With More Ashton is because everyone’s heart is in the right place even if their heads are runnin’ on fumes. They go to some pretty bold lengths to put themselves out there, but there was never a moment where I was rolling my eyes or laughing at the wrong places because no one in their right mind would ever get themselves into the fixes that these love fools can’t seem to get out of. And come on, I think we’ve all done some pretty dumbass things in pursuit of the opposite sex.
Anyway, swell script, now onto the cast.
You know the last movie I liked that Steve Carell starred in? Little Miss Sunshine. 2006. Now that Michael Scott’s in Denver and Dinner for Schmucks is still in existence, Carell was due for this. No, there’s not much separating his turn as the initially hopeless yet totally endearing Carl Weaver from the likes of Andy the virgin or real-life Dan, but who cares? That’s Carell at the top of his game and I love it when he takes a break from his “awkward to the max” shtick to play the everyman – a shtick that happens to suit him like a suit. And because life is always better with bonuses, the rest of the cast is just as wonderful. The great Julianne Moore is fantastic as Carl’s ex-wife Emily; Emma Stone continues to be one of the most awesome women in Hollywood as the apple of Gosling’s eye, Hannah; Marisa Tomei is a rip as the first of Carl’s many flings; Kevin Bacon isn’t around all that much but he’s good as the home-wrecking sonofabitch David Lindhagen; and newcomers Analeigh Tipton and Jonah Bobo absolutely hold their own and then some as Carl’s teen babysitter and Carl’s son, respectively. Yup, they all rock, every last one of ’em.
And then there’s Gosling.
Now, I know all you Drive fans out there are gonna hate me for this and are probably already starting a petition to have my Man Card burned with fire, but in a year where Ryan Gosling made the universe his bitch without even trying, this was the high point. Just as he became an overnight badass by staring down thugs with his scorpion-emblazoned Members Only jacket, the comedy game comes easy to Gosling and it’s something that’s been waiting to come out since he started cuttin’ some rug in Half Nelson. Considering that every other well-known actor he’s working alongside with here has at least some experience with making people laugh on-screen, it’s pretty crazy how he steals the show like a total boss and consistently delivers some of the funniest lines to boot. It’s not like the guy needed to do a comedy or needed to lighten up his image before he got pigeonholed as the quasi-sociopath who booted that hitman’s skull in, but more power to him for taking the initiative, stepping out of his comfort zone, and delivering the goods as usual. Good lord, what can’t Gosling do?
Kids, if you’ve ever been in a relationship, then you probably know full well the struggle that comes with deciding on what movie to watch. For all you love birds out there, you can go ahead and stop cycling through the Netflix Instant queue for the umpteenth time because this sucker’s a gift from snuggle heaven. For everyone else, Crazy, Stupid, Love. stands tall as a surprisingly funny and uber refreshing spin on a genre that’s gotten awfully comfortable with settling for the same old crap. Even if you’re not looking to put the moves on anyone, it’s most definitely worth a watch. One of those times where you can tell there’s not a soul involved in this movie isn’t clearly having a blast being involved in this movie, and it sure is nice to sit back and be part of the fun.