‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ a breath of fresh air
“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” a romantic comedy more funny than romantic, is neither crazy nor stupid. And therein lies the beauty: Despite the familiar backdrop, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” cleverly blends modern comic genres with a streak of dark, raw emotion in a manner that will have you in tears, even if you feel slightly awkward about laughing so hard.
More of a bromance than anything, “CSL,” directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“I Love You Phillip Morris”) delves into a multitude of male-centric situations, all of which involve some insight into the male sexual psyche. There’s even a large story arc dedicated to pubescent love and the tangles that ensue. In the end, though, the main theme is all aspects of romanticism. We get characters who believe in soulmates, those who believe in physical lust and those who believe in nothing. And part of the charm of “CSL” is all three types interact in ways that just reinforce the bittersweet magic that is love.
At the open, we’re introduced to Cal Weaver (Steve Carell, “The Office”), a 40-something everyman with a family, nice house and office job. It takes just minutes before we realize this is all a facade, as his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”), asks him for a divorce and tells him she cheated on him with a nebbish co-worker (Kevin Bacon, “Mystic River”). Well, intense drinking and pathetic storytelling ensues, with Cal whining to anyone within hearing distance. Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling, “The Notebook”), a self-assured pickup artist who offers his expertise to the sad sack whose in a suit too big and getting drunk off cranberry vodkas. Jacob, as male friends tend to, gives it straight to Cal: “I’m going to help you rediscover your manhood. Do you have any idea when you lost it?” he asks Cal. One haircut, several thousand dollars’ worth of new clothes and multiple “Hitch”-inspired tutorials later, Cal sets off to score with as many women as possible.
But it couldn’t be that simple. Complications abound, though they may take you by surprise. The script (Dan Fogelman, “Cars”) throws out a handful of plot threads, and then weaves them together in a dizzyingly rapid denouement that is both outrageous and mostly believable.
And for all the uncannily well-timed coincidences that sporadically pop up, you can’t deny the plot’s credibility. It produces an uncomfortable, all-too-realistic aura, one many people have felt before. But instead of stifling this sober acknowledgment of just how far love will go, Ficarra and Requa balance it with the romantic imperative demanded by Hollywood.
To this end, romantic problems aren’t just heaped onto Mr. and Mrs. Weaver. Seemingly following in his his father’s haphazard footsteps, lovelorn son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) deals with his crush on baby sitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who in turn has a crush on Cal. We also meet Hannah (an underused Emma Stone, “Zombieland”), a recent law school graduate with a useless boyfriend (Josh Groban). And while we’re soon clued in to a possible relationship between her and playboy Jacob, we have no idea how that will unfold.
Yes, there’s a lot of romance going around. But what’s more important, and more importantly what’s more funny, is the continuing emergence of same-sex friendships taking the lead (think “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids”). Carell and Gosling provide a reliable stream of hilarity, working together to sidestep caricature but each engaging in a bit of mugging when the situation calls for it. (On that note, who knew Gosling was funny?) While Cal is the loser, Jacob is the fool. And while Jacob’s the pretty one, it’s Cal who has the spirit.
“CSL” doesn’t quite break the mold, but its clever script and all-star cast go a long way in disrupting the soul-shattering monotony to which most romantic comedies adhere. But what makes it worth watching is that, at the end of the day, is the belief everything turns out all right, not by force, but by choice.
Four stars out of five.