There are romantic comedies, there are chick flicks, and then there are amusing films that actually take relationships seriously. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is a surprisingly strong work from the smart guys who co-directed I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS and the co-wrote BAD SANTA, although this film doesn't really resemble those in any way. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE dares to tackle relationships from every angle. There is a couple (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore) getting a divorce; there's a 13-year-old boy (Jonah Bobo) in love with his 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton); and there's a womanizer (Ryan Gosling) who has been tamed and fallen head over heels for a whip-smart lady (Emma Stone). And with rare exceptions, these relationships and handled by the filmmakers like real, living, breathing things that change as time goes on and feel absolutely genuine and moving.
Carell plays Cal, whose wife Emily (Moore) finds their marriage has gone stale. She cheats on him with an appealing co-worker (Kevin Bacon), and although she regrets it, the damage is done. Cal has been in love with Emily since high school, and he's never been with another woman. While drowning his sorrow in a local bar, Cal meets Jacob (Gosling), who knows every trick in the book to get a woman to sleep with him, including an irresistible closer involving DIRTY DANCING. Taking Cal under his wing as a sort of charity case, Jacob teaches him to dress, talk, and act, and the ladies react in kind, including a teacher played by Marisa Tomei. The 13-year-old I mentioned earlier is actually Cal's son Robbie, who pines and outwardly declares his love for babysitter Jessica, who just happens to have a secret crush on Cal and sees this divorce as a chance to make her move.
Stone's Hannah is one of the few women Jacob has met that not only can resist him, but she also laughs in his face when he puts the moves on her. But in a moment of weakness after Hannah breaks things off with her long-time boyfriend (Josh Groban...yes, that Josh Groban), she finds him and gives in to his charm, good looks, and too-good-to-be-true abs. There are a lot of places CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE could have turned in a bad direction, but about 95 percent of the time, it dares to take chances. More than a few times, the film actually shocked me with a couple of well-placed plot twists courtesy of a great screenplay by Dan Fogelman.
The places where the film falters are its all-consuming message that you should never give up if you think you've found your soulmate. The thought is sweet, but in reality if we all did that, we'd be arrested for stalking. There's a scene gone wrong in this movie where Carell takes over his son's graduation speech to declare his views on fighting for love, and I almost choked on the sugar. But CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE only falters a couple of times, and certainly not enough to ruin all of its great scenes, especially between Carell and Gosling, who continues to impress me with his range. After seeing him last year in BLUE VALENTINE and ALL GOOD THINGS, I didn't think I'd ever be able to find him charming, let alone sexy. But I'll be damned if he didn't convince me beyond any doubt that he was the ultimate ladies' man. Gosling has always made a point of never repeating himself, and between this film, the upcoming DRIVE and the George Clooney-directed IDES OF MARCH, his versatility streak continues.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is a tough film to pigeonhole into a genre or category, and that's a great thing. Carell gets to handle a bit of heart-breaking drama, while Gosling--easily one of his generation's best actors--gets to do something a little lighter. Even the stuff with the teenagers is loaded with all types of charm and sweetness. More comedies about the nature and pitfalls of love should be like this one. Now, if only we could do something about that horrible title...