by Tony Dayoub
Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and wife, Emily (Julianne Moore) have just sat down to dinner at a nice restaurant. We know they've been married for awhile because while every other couple at the restaurant is engaged in a lively conversation, Cal and Emily scan their menu quietly, mumbling about its contents to themselves; there's that and their mismatched style of dress: Cal, disheveled and wearing sneakers while sharply dressed Emily fidgets in her heels. When Cal breaks the silence to ask his wife what she wants, Emily announces, "I want a divorce." And so begins Crazy, Stupid, Love., the pretentiously punctuated romantic comedy-drama that cleverly embraces some of its own snootiness in its attempt to impart a bit of wisdom about the current state of love.
There's nothing like a bit of phony Hollywood pronouncements on love to set some of the more cynical film critics on edge. My favorite crank, Jeffrey Wells, has already declared his dislike for the film in his own inimitable way, for instance. And while he is mostly right about Crazy, Stupid, Love.'s misguided outlook on love, the truth is, it's a fun and funny movie. Maybe it's because Ryan Gosling, playing the King of All Players, Jacob Palmer, reminds me of many womanizers I met when I was living single in my hometown of Miami, metrosexual studs puffing up their chests as they cruised the clubs for someone to take home that night while masking broken, lonely souls. Jacob takes Cal under his wing (because Cal "[reminds him] of someone") and makes him over in his image. Weaver is a quick learner, scoring one-night stands with a fair amount of women he meets at Jacob's favorite bar (including one manic schoolteacher played by Marisa Tomei). But it's not enough to erase Cal's heartbreak over Emily.
What makes Crazy, Stupid, Love. feel more honest than your average romantic dramedy is the way Cal's struggles with the fantasy proposition of a "soulmate" is reflected in the relationships of his friends and family. Jacob discovers he's genuinely interested in Hanna (Emma Stone), a pretty, young lawyer who unexpectedly turns down the highly successful pick-up king. Post-separation, Emily can't connect to the coworker she had an affair with, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon)—too often referred to by his full name, the way convicts usually are (he did kill a marriage). Even Cal and Emily's teenage son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) wrestles with his first sexual attraction—to his awkward, lanky babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), herself nursing a crush on Cal. Confusing? Believe me, it doesn't play that way.
What Crazy, Stupid, Love. does is take the elements of farce, subvert them enough to transcend their comic roots and offer a tiny bit more—a film in which one actually connects with the central characters, lately a rarity in this genre. And if the movie ultimately fails to answer even one question about the nature of love, well even high art has never succeeded in that endeavor.