I don’t care much for the title of Crazy, Stupid, Love. It sounds too much like Love Actually or other films of the like. There is a better line of dialog early on in the film that would have sufficed: “I love you, please?” It’s spoken by Robbie, an 8th grader who confesses his love for his babysitter Jessica. It’s a quick act of desperation with poor results.
That’s part of the reason why this movie works so much. Characters try to be overtly romantic, but it often falls on their face because a lot of the film is grounded in reality. Cal (Steve Carell) is devastated when his wife of 25 years (Julianne Moore) says she wants a divorce. He responds by signing whatever she wants and wallowing at a hip bar. Smooth talking Jacob (Ryan Gosling) pities Cal and teaches him to move on and pick up women.
Meanwhile Hannah (Emma Stone) rejects Jacob because she’s stuck in a boring relationship while she studies for the bar, Jessica the babysitter is struggling with her crust on Cal, and Cal’s wife Emily continues to have an affair with her co-worker (Kevin Bacon).
I love Dan Fogelman’s script. He’s best known for working on animated films like Bolt and Tangled, but here he shows he knows how to make a smart likable comedy. It’s a very “writery” thing to do, but everything has a payoff. It’s a good way to connect everything into a tight story. He uses clichés in a fresh way that makes all of them tolerable.
For example, after Emily says she wants a divorce there is a scene in their house. A picture frame of Cal and Emily is knocked over and now the image is cracked. It’s an eye-rolling metaphor showing there is trouble in their marriage. Yet as Jessica picks it up, she looks at it for a moment. Then she places her hand over Emily so she can only see Cal. It’s a natural way to show her crush by using an overused symbol. This doesn’t excuse some of the “surprise” speeches in public places, but
Most of all, the movie is funny. Gosling gives his best performance in years. It’s harder to play super cool than uncool because the audience has to believe you. He has charm and never overplays the underlining vulnerability of the character. His interactions with Cal are the movie’s best scenes. They are both actors who can do great things with the right script and they are now in a position to pick more interesting projects.
The whole film fits into a nice even groove. It’s one of the few films that put a smile on my face for the whole run. Romantic comedies don’t have to only be for the idiot teenagers. Everyone will respond to quality even if the leads are –gasp!—pushing 50.