Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

3 out of 5

Crazy, Stupid, Love
is a star-driven romantic comedy that prefers its passion served up coy and genteel. You know how some films seem hell-bent on breaking the record for utterances of the F-word? This one has a similar goal in mind, except with the euphemism "sleep with." Sex is the love that dare not speak its name. For all of Love's obsession with soulmates and overwhelming romantic desires, you wonder why these poor people just can't say what's on their minds.

That's a minor complaint. Most of
Love is thoroughly enjoyable, well-acted, and nice to look at. It tells the story of Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) and their divorce. It is a shock to the family's system, particularly to the couple's grandiose and lovesick son (Jonah Bobo) who's harboring a crush on his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), and who cannot accept this crack in his platonic ideal of a loving relationship. Yet, it's Carell who is the most broken, turning to the resident womanizer at a local bar (Ryan Gosling) for advice in sowing his wild oats post hoc.

subscribes to a brand of cathartic comedy that squeezes awkward, knowing laughs from the pain of a broken home and the broken hearts that come with it. The approach works thanks to last piece of the puzzle, a down-to-earth dreamgirl (Emma Stone) who manages to puncture Gosling's machismo. The film smartly utilizes Stone's status as a audience darling to throw jabs at the transform-your-man romantic formula, even as the script asks us to acquiesce to these very familiar characters and themes. Sometimes a little tweaking is all it takes. Stone's evisceration of Gosling's strategies for sealing the deal (as well as the Brookstone-meets-Wynn Hotels eyesore of his bachelor pad) is what sticks in the mind. The fact that she then chooses to be with him is secondary and still somewhat satisfying.

In Love, the concept of love itself is limited to the opposite ends of a match - you get either the spark or fizzle and none of the slow burn in between. Perhaps this is because the movie has a lot of unnecessary ground to cover. It lingers too lovingly on Gosling's alpha male dominance before (partially) knocking him off his pedestal, and the babysitter arc quickly slides into child services territory. They're hyper-mature "kids" that don't really act their age (as kids in movies are wont to do); nonetheless I kept wondering if I should call the cops. But what's a little bit of narrative bloat in a movie that calls itself on its own bullshit while it endearingly sticks to its core principles? Love is ultimately a welcome confection, genuinely surprising and comfortably familiar in its way.

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