If last week’s Friends with Benefits was any indication, it seems like writers are unwilling to change up the same old tiresome romantic-comedy formula. However, this week brings the release of Crazy, Stupid, Love, a film that only follows parts of the age-old formula and instead approaches it with a different tone. Whereas most romantic-comedies will have a light, playful tone throughout most of the film proceeded by a sadder tone while we wait for the characters to get together, the way this film goes about it presents a sadder mood right from the start.
As the film opens, we find Cal (Steve Carell) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) at dinner. The air between them seems rather awkward, even more so when Emily suddenly announces that she wants a divorce after having been married to Cal for 25 years. Furthermore, she admits to having slept with a man from her office, David (Kevin Bacon). Meanwhile, at home, their 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has confessed his love for his 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). However, she actually has a crush on Cal and thinks that Emily must be crazy to want to divorce him.
With his new single life, Cal starts hitting up the bars, getting drunk night after night and telling everyone he meets how his wife cheated on him. This gets the attention of a pick-up artist, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who offers him a few lessons on picking up women. Jacob believes that with the right wardrobe and the right words, even Cal should be able to find someone new. Of course, this isn’t as easy for Cal as Jacob would have it seem.
Starting with the film’s humor, there are several sporadically funny moments, including a few laugh-out-loud scenes, which is something you don’t get with a lot of films in this genre nowadays. The humor here also isn’t particularly crude or offensive and never sinks down to the depths that some films will. Not all of the jokes hit the mark, as is often the case, but they are amusing enough to carry most of the movie.
Strangely enough, the funniest scene comes at the end of the second act, which felt like a really strange place to put a scene in which it feels like the movie should be wrapping up. This is a scene where all of the film’s elements, which had been set up slowly and deliberately, come to a head, leading to some hilarious reveals.
The problem is that the film keeps going after this for about another half-hour, and since the film had already felt stretched out a little before, this just made it feel even more so. Ending the film at the more logical place would have given it a tighter feeling and helped the pace feel a little less sluggish. The writer, Dan Fogelman, would have had to make a few adjustments, but there wasn’t really any reason that this film needed to be two hours, especially given that stretched-out feeling and the fact that it could have gone out on a comedic high note.
The story is not without charm and, as mentioned before, humorous moments. The side story of Robbie trying to get Jessica to like him and dealing with rejection is particularly amusing and includes a rather interesting interpretation from him about Hawthorne’s use of the letter “A” in The Scarlet Letter. The main story is overall decent and some highlights include Jacob’s lessons to Cal about how to pick up women, which are particularly fun to watch.
Along with a complete change of wardrobe, Jacob teaches him that the conversation should remain about her rather than him, and that he should not mention anything about his kids or the fact that his wife slept with someone else. Then there’s the cool attitude that Jacob exudes, which Cal tries to replicate as well, but to much less success.
While I’ve never found Carell particularly funny (I don’t see what all the fuss with The Office is about), he is pretty good here at playing a man trying to move on with his life after his marriage comes to a sudden end. Moore is sweet in her role as a woman who seems like she wants to move on, but clearly shows that she’s not quite over her husband. As for Gosling, it’s interesting to see him in a role like this, especially after the downer that was Blue Valentine, but he is effective here, as is Bobo as the love-stricken teen.
In the end, while Crazy, Stupid, Love does have several funny parts, it was rather hard to shake the feeling that the film was too drawn out for the story it was trying to tell. The jokes are amusing in many places, but they can only carry the film so far. So it basically comes down to this: if you want to have several laughs, but don’t mind the film having several sluggish spots, then you’ll probably have a good time. If you’re looking for something with a tighter story structure and better pacing, then you might want to look elsewhere.