Love is a mess, one with no reason, no rhyme, just mostly insanity. At least that is what the makers of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” want you to believe. The genius of the film is its ability to appear on the surface a quiet romantic comedy, while its exposé on relationships is much deeper and complex than one would imagine.
The brilliance of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is its multigenerational storyline that hardly ever feels overwhelming or overbearing. At its center is insurance man Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) who is informed unexpectedly by his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) that she desires a divorce, admitting she recently cheated on Cal. Having hit a plateau in his life years ago, Cal’s personality has become severely muted, and while this news shatters him, he willingly leaves his family without a fight. Cal’s thirteen year old son Robbie feels betrayed by his dad, unable to understand why his hero has been defeated so easily.
Rejected and isolated, Cal soon finds himself a regular customer at the local bar where he is eventually approached by Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who convinces Cal that he needs to “rediscover his manhood.” Jacob is the suave ladies man who can get any girl he approaches to go home with him, and he is intent on mentoring Cal how to do the same. But even Jacob has his own fatal flaws, incapable of using his winsome nature to seduce the one woman he really wants – a self-assured law student named Hannah (Emma Stone).
With all the different players involved, the script would appear to be a contrived setup. And for the first ten minutes or so, the movie borders dangerously close to being more like a series of unbalanced snapshots than a fluid story. But once the field is set, the true colors of the tale begin to shine through. Co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa don’t shy away from displaying the heartache and despair that results from broken and lacking relationships. The originality of this romantic comedy comes from the manner in which it observes how the struggles of love often tend to be amusing.
This is the kind of film that thrives on the ensemble of performances. The leading characters have a chemistry that never appears forced or faked. Steve Carell is cast in one of the better roles of his film career, portraying vulnerability while avoiding most of the abrasive foolishness that made him popular on “The Office.” Julianne Moore has a surprisingly youthful quality about herself, in light of playing a mother dealing with divorce. Audiences will easily be drawn to Ryan Gosling not only because of his enduring “coolness” but also the tact in which he plays Jacob’s more subtle insecurities as an empty, searching man. Emma Stone is constantly exuding a sweetness and independence that is a strong match for Gosling.
What is truly refreshing about “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the ways in which it over and over again refuses to embrace cliched, recycled story lines of lost love. The three generations of lovers represented in the film give a rich-bodied perspective of relationships. In almost every way, the movie succeeds with the exception of the second act where Cal and Emily receive an inordinate amount of screen time while the supporting characters are pushed to the side. When the story does return to focus on Jacob and Emily’s relationship, it is wildly unpredictable yet balanced. This film is filled with unique revelations, some expected, and some not at all. What stands out is the unadulterated honesty of the characters, especially in the case of Cal and his son. Cal admits to his wife, “I should of fought for you,” while in equal measure, Robbie isn’t afraid to say he believes that “love is a scam,” after being repeatedly rejected by his crush, his rosy-cheeked babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton).
Rather than mock, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” boldly offers truth in the matters of the heart. Where most films would rely on glitzy montages to show the gradual growth of the characters, this movie devotes time to the tedious realities of relationships. In this, there comes a rewarding measure of art. In the end, the story still doesn’t arrive at perfection for all parties involved, but more of an understanding. Love is a process, an experience, that comes in seasons and rarely ever makes complete sense. And that, is what makes it beautiful.