Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not The Comedy Some Might Suspect, Crazy Stupid Love. Is A Subtle Cinematic Winner.

The Good: Amazing cast, Good dialogue, Moments of fun
The Bad: Absolutely misrepresented by the previews, Tone is more depressing than hilarious through much of the film.
The Basics: Crazy Stupid Love. blends the realistic sense of loss with a fantasy of the dating world today to make a movie that is ultimately satisfying, but more grounded than the previews made it seem.

Unlike my wife, I am actually a fan of romantic comedies. I tend to also be a lot more critical of them because I think it's a tough sell for the genre. I'm not much of a believer in "love at first sight" (there's some irony there from my personal life, but . . .) so I tend to see love in the movies more as infatuation and the time compression for relationships there is a bit more formulaic than a realist like me is comfortable with. So, I was partially excited to see Crazy Stupid Love. because I liked members of the cast and I've been waiting for a good romantic comedy. Those who have only seen the trailers are likely to go to Crazy Stupid Love. and feel like they were victims of bait and switch, though, as the film opens with a tone that is more dour, slow and moody than one would expect from a romantic comedy.

Fortunately, Crazy Stupid Love. does not become mired in its numbness like The House Of Sand And Fog and the movie is entertaining even when it veers away from the realist moodiness of the first portions in favor of a fantasy - or parody - of adult relationships today. In some ways, Crazy Stupid Love. plays better as an anti-romantic drama before it becomes a remarkably formulaic romantic comedy. What makes it work is a level of dialogue and performance that help to overcome the plot issues and character types that feel overdone.

Cal has been married for twenty-five years when his wife tells him that she has had an affair and wants a divorce, so Cal does what men who are otherwise responsible fathers fixated entirely upon their wives do, which is to go down to the nearby bar and drink himself stupid. At the bar, he meets the younger, hipper Jacob who helps straighten him out some and gets him dating again. Cal, however, truly does love Emily, who is being pursued by David. Cal tries to date, while staying in his son's life ostensibly to see if he can find the spark with Emily again.

But the longer they are around one another, the more Jacob realizes that Cal might be the answer to his dating problem. Jacob has inadvertently stopped having meaningless sex and playing the field and fallen for Hannah. So, as Cal tries to adapt to being single, Jacob turns to him for advice on how to settle down.

Crazy Stupid Love. is good. It's very good, in fact. But it's not uproariously funny and it does not feel as fresh and new as so many others seem to want to believe it is. For example, Steve Carell has been praised a lot for his acting in Crazy Stupid Love. I like the works of Steve Carell and I think he's good in Crazy Stupid Love. But what he is not is unsurprising as Cal. In fact, anyone who has seen Dan In Real Life knows just how well Carell can pull off numb and depressed and anyone who has seen Date Night (reviewed here!) can absolutely believe that Carell can play a character who goes from mired in routine to active and energized. In other words, directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa used decent casting more than mining something truly unexpected from the actor. But, to reiterate, Carell is good in the role and he plays moody, depressed and fixated exceptionally well. And when he gets the spark in his eyes from Cal having fun, he sells those moments as well.

Conversely, Emma Stone - who I've enjoyed in three out of three projects before this - does a great job playing a character I couldn't stand. Hannah, more than being a fully realized character, is a ridiculous modern archetype whereby a highly intelligent young woman falls for exactly the type guy she seems too smart to get involved with. Just like Smart People was a parody of how people see people of a certain intelligence as socially awkward and alienated, Hannah represents a downright inexplicable trend in modern cinema whereby a ridiculously smart young woman sees through the facade of ridiculous, chauvinistic gameplaying of a male character (in this case Jacob), but then wants to be with him anyway. Stone lands the role, making it through all of her articulate arguments skillfully and playfully delivering some of the movie's funniest lines, but her character is that annoying Hollywood cliche of book and street smart and emotionally stupid.

That said, Crazy Stupid Love. oscillates between being a very adult film and a surprisingly juvenile one. Ryan Gosling's Jacob is a pretty stereotypical player and reminded me almost instantly of Jake Gyllenhaal's character from Love And Other Drugs (reviewed here!). In fact, Jacob's character arc is essentially Jamie's arc only he realizes quicker he doesn't want to be a douchebag anymore. Gosling carries the role well and he is charismatic with his smile and eyes far more than by simply taking his shirt off.

The great cast seems to be going farther than I thought it would, though, because the more I analyze Crazy Stupid Love. the more I think of it as mundane and derivative. While watching the movie, it started out as depressing, but became more engaging - despite the cliche straightman/wingman teaches the player story - the more it went on. I attribute that, in large part, to the dialogue. Crazy Stupid Love. sounds good and the characters are almost all articulate and interesting (Marisa Tomei's crazy Kate being an obvious exception who seems to help prove the rule), even when they make less real-world sense than some would like.

Crazy Stupid Love is not fun for most of the movie. This is not a comedic masterpiece, instead it is a depressing character study whipped together with one of the most absurd Hollywood cliches of our time. But writer Dan Fogelman makes us believe that the otherwise sensible and stable Cal could find attraction in starting over and playing the field for a time and that fantasy is why we go to the movies. The stellar performances land an otherwise painful or absurd movie and make it worth seeing.

For other films with Emma Stone, please check out my reviews of:
The Help
Friends With Benefits
Easy A


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment