Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore
Running Time: 118 minutes
By Nicholas Bland
Hollywood comedies generally recommend themselves as films to avoid watching. North American prudery combined with overblown emotional pyrotechnics tends to kill any humour they might otherwise possess. But there’s a moment, about five minutes into Crazy, Stupid, Love, when it becomes delightfully obvious that the worst Hollywood tropes have been left at the studio door in making this film.
Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is sitting at his office desk, predictably downbeat after discovering the night before that his wife has been having an affair. His boss comes to visit him, all backslapping flattery, to which Cal, seeing through the act, asks gently, “Who told you that Emily and I are getting divorced?” His boss then tilts his head back in relief, “We all thought is was cancer!” at which point the whole office, ecstatic at the news, claps Weaver down the office aisle, as he leaves to go and pick up some furniture from a home he now needs to vacate.
Carell is a first-rate comic actor, but he also has depth as a performer. Crazy, Stupid, Love is partly successful because Carell moves easily between an acute sense of comic timing, and moments utterly void of comic intention. The serious issues at hand – the desiccating effect of long-term monogamy, as well as the role of courage in any romantic relationship – are enhanced by Carell’s skills as an actor. Julianne Moore is excellent as his wife, conveying a complex emotional frailty in being attracted to one of her co-workers but remaining steadfastly attached to her childhood sweetheart-cum-husband. Supporting this central partnership are Jacob (Hollywood’s current flavour of choice, Ryan Gosling), the Weavers’ eldest child of three, Hannah (Emma Stone), and their young son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) who masturbates and infatuates over his babysitter. Gosling is perfectly cut for the part of professional, but emotionally hollowed, womaniser. He takes Carell under his wing to enlighten him with all the Neil Strauss-style tricks that make him a success with women. We learn that his seductive coup de grâce is to have women jump into his arms, before he lifts them up, à la Patrick Swayze, and carries them off to bed.
Still, this is not a film without flaws. The success of its comic scenes is varied and its plot becomes absurd, even when one accounts for the spacey room for invention permitted by North American rom-coms. But the movie blends comedy with more serious consideration of how we should lead our married lives, whether we have romantic destinies, and just how far we should infatuate over our babysitters. And that’s no small success.