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Review: Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Premise: A middle aged man (Steve Carell) separates from his wife (Julianne Moore) and befriends a young player (Ryan Gosling) who teaches him the ropes of contemporary dating. At the same time, the couple’s son (Jonah Bobo) purses his crush on his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton).

What Works: The performances in Crazy Stupid Love are impressive. The film has a witty sense of humor and the actors take advantage of the comedic potential of the screenplay. Steve Carell has a unique ability to do both comedy and tragedy, and in Crazy Stupid Love, Carell is able to play one for the other, sometimes using a joke to punctuate the blues and other times finding the absurdity in the sadness. Ryan Gosling is also very good as a younger man who befriends Carell’s character and becomes his mentor. Although Gosling’s character is in many ways despicable he also possesses a credible charm and Emma Stone entertains with her characteristic sassiness. There is also a pair of supporting performances by Jonah Bobo and Analeigh Tipton as the couple’s young son and his babysitter that are impressive and the young actors convey the anguish and angst of first love.

What Doesn’t: Crazy Stupid Love is one of those curious examples of a movie that has talented actors giving very strong performances and yet the film isn’t very good. This picture has all sorts of plainly absurd moments that undermine it such as the recovering alcoholic (Marisa Tomei) who Steve Carell’s character meets at a bar, a thirteen year old who is babysat by a seventeen year old, or the climax that brings all the characters together in an absurd and contrived situation. But the main problem with the film is that Crazy Stupid Love has no coherent thesis. This film alternates between too many characters and subplots and it has no underlying idea that unifies them together. It begins as a midlife crisis story in which Carell’s character must reinvent himself but he never moves on and the picture keeps circling over the same territory without progressing the story or the characters. The film clumsily introduces new themes or subplots and they are underdeveloped and out of step with each other. There is no point to all of this and the story has no proper plot; this is not a series of events linked in a cause and effect relationship but a collage of romantic comedy clichés slapped together in random order. This gets worse as the film goes on, especially in the relationship between Carell and his estranged wife played by Julianne Moore. Although the two actors have a few fine moments at the film’s opening, their separation has none of the venom or hurt of a ruined marriage. Because Crazy Stupid Love has no stance on the subject of love and relationships, the filmmakers have no idea where to go with the characters and instead of increasing the conflict the film actually attempts to soften the breakup with an inconclusive resolution. There is a similar problem in the romance between Gosling and Stone’s characters. Gosling is established as a womanizer but he gives up his philandering ways as soon as he meets Stone. There is no reason for him to do this nor is there any reason for her to be attracted to him. This isn’t just bad storytelling; it is also phony and dishonest.

Bottom Line: Crazy Stupid Love may be witty but that jocularity is an attempt to disguise how clueless the filmmakers are on their topic. This picture has nothing to say about love or relationships and its presentation is disingenuous at best.

Episode: #351 (August 7, 2011)