Crazy, Stupid, Love is decisively straight forward and surprisingly well-mannered for a film about broken people, love and the collateral damage of romance. Thankfully we’re spared ridiculousness for the sake of adventure and there’s no need for vulgarity or convoluted happenstance either. Instead the film focuses on the tiny, almost indecipherable micro biology of love, commitment, and companionship inherent in everyday good intentions, understandable shortcomings and hopeless romantics. Sure, the characters come dangerously close to caricature frequently to resolve troubled morality, and they wallow at times in the muck of mendacity as the directors employ blunt force cliché to make all the connections pay off. But when the characters get off track, and they do with impunity, they lose sight of themselves for one another and somewhere in the midst of becoming better individuals we’re right there with them on their way to being better partners. If this film suffers at all it is from its reliance on ordinary accomplishment as a vehicle for revelation and change. Then again, sometimes it’s the slightest laughter at the everyday silly things we do and the ensuing warmth from our connection to one another that makes us smile, even if it’s awfully close to run-of-the-mill funny.
Cal and Emily Weaver got married because they had to, back when it was the right thing to do, but after twenty-five years of marriage Emily’s not as committed as she used to be. In fact she wants out, a bombshell she drops on Cal at dinner with all the panache of a slap in the face. His biggest challenge up until that point was figuring out what to order for dessert. What ensues is pretty much what you’d expect to happen, the obligatory moving van and solo apartment rental, the former family house positioned between disrupted friends and strangers reacting to the way things used to be. Fortunately writer-director duo John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (I Love You Phillip Morris) working from a script by Dan Fogelman (Bolt, Cars) are quick to blend twists and laughs to keep things interesting as the characters learn how to walk and talk by themselves again. The movie does plod far too long for its own good, with Cal leaving home and Emily stuck trying to convince the babysitter her friend from work is just a friend from work. All this back and forth does establish the geography for the rest of the film, it’s just tedious to see it all spelled out with Cal and his personal journeys on one side and Emily and hers on the other. Eventually Cal drinks his way to the bottom of a cocktail glass and catches the attention of his soon to be savior in a smart suit and designer shoes. Emily treads lightly, no more certain she’s doing the right thing than confident this new guy (Kevin Bacon) is all that different from the old guy. All in all challenging stuff to balance for a movie that’s supposed to be funny, substantive and believable at the same time. Mostly it’s Crazy, Stupid, Love.
After Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) part ways, we get to spend more time with the family who have to deal with the separation and their own issues. Young son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has lost sight of all else except the babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) who he has decided is the love of his life, not knowing that she’s in love with his dad. First daughter Hannah (Emma Stone) got out while she could not but before irreparable damage was done. She seems doomed to patiently wait for the same kind of disappointing relationship with the same type of lovable schmuck that married her mom. We don’t see much of bar trawler and pick-up artist Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) until he hooks up with Cal at the bar. Right away he’s everything Cal isn’t, probably never was. Jacob is good looks and impeccably dressed, the right lines and moves that women imagine are exactly right until they’re not. Eventually Jacob tires of listening to Cal’s drunken confessional each night, offers to help him find his style again, separate him from his Velcro wallet and tennis shoes for dads. We don’t know right away that Jacob isn’t all that he professes, that beneath the confident smile and good shoes is a guy who’s never been loved or loving. It’s these kinds of layers that give the film the heart and character to be unique and entertaining. Comedy of errors, dysfunctional family drama for laughs, Crazy, Stupid, Love endears if only to be close to home funny with characters you know or knew, mistakes you’ve made or are on your way to making. Story plus character equals funny without time wasted on bathroom breaks.
Rex Reed of the New York Observer wrote that the film “nailed stupid”, while Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly called it “enchanting”, and the ever insightful balcony-man Roger Ebert walked away with “sweet”. Sometimes ordinary films have a hard time impressing an audience, first spending too much time trying to get humdrum right, then later concerned with ending in ways that never end well in real life. Mixed reviews perhaps have it right, pitting the frequently sentimental consequences of family facing love and divorce in a time when families are less defined by angelic ideals as reality television, with extramarital friendships that never start out that way but always end like that, revealing as much about our expectations as our willingness to celebrate Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Blu-ray Or Not To Blu-ray:
Crazy, Stupid, Love is hardly a film that benefits from Blu-ray but if you’re into special features and bonus content you’ll find some supply here. There are several featurettes – Steve & Ryan walk into a bar, The player meets his match, and deleted scenes that were thankfully deleted scenes. This is pure character work, a lot more laughs than you’d expect with surprising revelations about stuff we already knew, or thought we did.
Warner Home Video, a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., invited me to join their exclusive Blu-ray Elite Movie Review Program and they sent me a complimentary copy of this movie for the purpose of review with special attention on the “Blu-ray Experience”. I received this video for free, but that does not sway this review or the reviews of other films that will follow.