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May Movie Challenge

May 2: Crazy, Stupid Love | A Genre You Dislike

Maximilian Rivera May 2, 2017
By Max Rivera | @MaxRiveraFilm

In the category of A Genre You Dislike, Max chose Romantic Comedy and subsequently picked Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, written by Dan Fogelman, and starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone. 

Crazy Stupid Love isn’t that crazy, but it does bring enough love to make it work.

When it comes to rom-coms, I’ve never been a huge fan. I know that plenty of people love rom-coms, but to me they are usually shallow, unrealistic fluff-pieces with overly saccharine endings that just don’t add up.

Full disclosure, I DO sometimes enjoy watching a rom-com just for how bad it can be — like Fever Pitch or Fools Rush In. So when I had to pick a film from a genre I don’t like, I just had to roll with the rom-com.

From there it was only a matter of finding a film that interests me. Based on cast alone, Crazy, Stupid, Love was the natural winner. From the trailer, you can at least see that this film offers an ensemble cast and several plot lines, which hopefully meant I could find something to enjoy. At least I shouldn’t get bored.

Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Annaleigh Tipton, Crazy, Stupid, Love also carries the promise of being well-acted. While some films (like Aloha) can carry good actors and offer zero delivery, the certified fresh status here with this film made me go into it with a positive attitude.

Right off the bat, we’re presented with the premise of the movie: Cal Weaver (Carell) is boring and his wife Emily (Moore) wants a divorce. We’re treated to a parade of awkward situations after this — Emily confesses to infidelity, Cal jumps out the car, Jessica (Tipton) the babysitter catches their son masturbating, and we see Jacob (Gosling) unsuccessfully woo Hannah (Stone).

This is the introduction to our key players and the premise of the film: there is an interactive space between love and relationships is not only messy, it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to navigate, and it is altogether hard to understand.

The film does a good job of presenting us us with a comical-yet-plausible scenario in a sincere and heartfelt way. For all intents and purposes, Cal is a complete loser. Not only has he let himself go, but he’s given up on the passion of his marriage, his fashion sense, and his own desires in life. When Cal is left by his wife, we feel as directionless as he does — and we also feel some sympathy for Emily, because it is clear she is without a paddle, as well.

So we zip through a mash-up of Cal moving out, Emily apologizing, the kids adjusting, and Jessica trying to see the positive in this. But the plot really takes off once Cal meets Jacob — Cal has spent the film so far being a poor communicator. On the flip side, Jacob is honest to a fault, and he spends the first half of the film deconstructing Cal only to recreate him in his own image.

Meanwhile, we find out that Hannah is expecting her boyfriend to propose, Emily is figuring out what divorce actually means, and Jessica is dealing with her schoolgirl crush on Cal while avoiding his son Robbie — who just so happens to have a crush on her. Cal continues on his quest to get over Emily, and learns to be sexy, to have sex, and to objectify women. After Hannah’s wishes fall apart with her boyfriend, she seeks out Jacob and we’re treated to the natural charisma Gosling and Stone share on camera — years before La La Land ever hit theaters.  

All of the plot lines come together at the Weaver house when Cal finally realizes he just wants one woman — Emily, his wife — and tries to rekindle the flame. At this time, we find out Hannah is their daughter as she introduces the family to her new boyfriend, Jacob — Cal’s mentor. Within these scenes, Jessica’s parents find nude photos she was planning to give to Cal and her father attacks him at their house. This was a funny sequence, but almost felt like a sitcom moment overall. So far, we have toed the line between a more subdued, realistic comedy and some great one-liners. To jump straight to a hijinks scene was kind of jarring, but the beats worked for the humor, at least.

However, the film redeems itself by having David Lindhagen, played by Kevin Bacon and who is the source of Emily’s infidelity, show up to return her sweater. A swift punch from Jacob gives the audience something to cheer about, and the satisfying catharsis brought me back into the film.

In the end, Cal helps his own son realize that love is worth fighting for, even if it is really hard. He accepts the reformed Jacob being with Hannah, and also rekindles a spark with his wife. We don’t know if it’ll work, but we’re left feeling it will. Jessica the babysitter makes peace with Robbie, and also sneaks him the naked photos, which I felt was kind of strange.

Overall, I couldn’t help but like Crazy, Stupid, Love because it was delivered with sincerity and honesty. The impressive cast brings fully realized performances with charisma and chemistry. While not overly stylistic, the visuals are solid and the musical cues work for the flow of the scenes.

Most surprising to me was the third act reveal that not only was Hannah the Weavers’ daughter, but she was also the reason they married so young. It gave the film a nice impact, and brought the plotlines together in a smart and fun way.

Where I think Crazy, Stupid, Love falters is that certain things didn’t go far enough; it was never really crazy, some jokes fell flat, and there were a few situation comedy bits that felt too perfectly executed and wrapped.

Some of the early jokes reminded me of another Carell film, The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), especially during his makeover. However, the film pulls off a few unique laughs, and I audibly cackled at Cal’s velcro wallet.

I also found the Jessica subplot to be rather interesting, and almost worthy of its own story. Jessica had a decent amount of agency in her plot, and I didn’t feel the plot demeaned her character for having sexual emotions. While it can be an icky subject, a younger person having a crush on an older person is pretty normal for that age group — so I was worried going into that plot. The sitcom-like hijinks it resulted in wasn’t my favorite, but I’m glad it wasn’t treated as just a gag on Cal’s expense.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is an interesting look at love throughout a divorce and the idea of love growing in different directions. It’s a well-liked film, and I think it is deservedly so. I mean, the chemistry between these characters carries it very far, and it just needs the story beats to finish the rest.

So sure, it doesn’t break the rom-com mold, but it works within the tropes to at least create something refreshing. It asks you to believe in love and gives you a few examples of new love, old love, and enduring love. If you’re not a huge fan of rom-coms, you might find yourself enjoying it. I think you’ll definitely love this film if you’re already a fan of the genre, too.

Crazy Stupid Love: A-

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Max is a marketing copywriter by day, filmmaker and screenwriter by night. He resides in Charlotte, NC, and loves his dogs, watching movies, building LEGO sets, and eating food. Lots of food.You can find Max at his personal website and twitter.