First thing’s first – I think you should see Crazy, Stupid, Love. The movie is not a unique experience and there is one thing about the movie that I really hated, but the movie overcomes both of these things by being full of real emotion, quality performances, atmosphere and subversion. The film does an exceptional job balancing cliche sequences with unexpected moments of poignancy. The characters are relatable and they act in such a way that they resemble actual humans rather than dramatized versions of humans. Crazy, Stupid, Love allows the people and the story to breathe and it ends up being a wholly enjoyable way to spend two hours.
The movie explores a common theme of love being lost by one person and found by another. Steve Carell’s Cal is the one losing love in this case. His marriage has fallen apart because over time he became “boring” and his wife (Julianne Moore) slept with another man (Kevin Bacon). The love being found is by Jacob, played by Ryan Gosling, who falls for Hannah (Emma Stone) like no woman he has met before. In between, Cal does not lose touch with his entire being and Jacob never succumbs to a level of loathing that we typically expect from his character-type. What the movie does so well is encourage us to pull for every character in the movie. We understand why Cal’s wife would do what she did, just as Cal understands. We understand why Jacob does the things he does and we understand why Hannah would dump her stooge of a boyfriend (wonderfully played by Josh Groban) and fall for Jacob in the end, just as he does. Carell and Gosling are an exceptional team and the way they grow as friends makes real life sense. That’s what separates this movie from others in the genre.
There comes a point late in the movie where Cal is alone at the bar where he first met Jacob. Jacob is seeing his relationship with Hannah grow at the expense of his friendship with Cal. The scene mirrors their first encounter, but this time Cal is the Jacob and there is another schlub at the bar. Early in the movie Jacob tells Cal that he wants to help him because he reminds him of someone. This scene would traditionally go the route of a montage of the growth in Cal and Jacob’s relationship or show Cal taking the schlub under his wing, but it does not do that. Instead, Cal realizes how far he has fallen and begins the process of moving on. It was a moment that had me grinning, knowing that the movie would not play out in a generic way.
The subversion is also prevalent in the way that the movie approaches the crush that Cal’s babysitter has on him. Rather than having her make increasingly awkward plays for his affections, her crush plays in the background, bubbling under the surface of her interactions as she tries to make sense of the looming divorce. Though this might be her opportunity to make a play for Cal (and though she does take some inappropriate pictures for Cal that she stashes in her dresser), instead she thinks about the repercussions and goes about her normal day. It’s an arc that is executed superbly and the resolution resonates beautifully. Much like the rest of the movie, there is a momentum that builds without getting out of control, reaches the eventual climax and closes in a way that gives weight to emotion instead of neatly closing storylines.
The atmosphere and the color palette of the film stay away from the blown-out, brightly lit schemes of most romantic comedies in favor of a darker, more realistic look. It suits the movie well and kept me involved because of how well the color worked and the framing was exactly what the movie needed. The only glaring fault in the movie is the overuse of music, whether it be soundtrack, score or diegetic. The music seemed to be used to pull heartstrings or set a mood when the film itself did these things well on its own.
In the end, the movie plays like a well-paced, light drama more than a romantic comedy. It stays away from the look and feel of the typical romantic comedy and goes unexpected places emotionally and with the story. Ryan Gosling gives a virtuoso performance that will do nothing but see his star continue to rise. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore both do excellent work with everything they’re given and Emma Stone is charming in the limited time she is on screen. It is a film that clearly knew what it wanted to be and how it wanted to differentiate itself from its genre-brethren and it does so in spades. It’s a tremendous two hours of spending time in the lives of these people and I cannot recommend it highly enough.