Based on the cast (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore as a married couple Cal and Emily—how perfect) and a promising trailer, I went into Crazy, Stupid, Love fully expecting to love it. I didn’t, but I did leave loving the young couple (a surprisingly funny Ryan Gosling as Jacob and Emma Stone as Hannah). They had everything going for them—charm, chemistry and perfect timing. Emma Stone is darling and hilarious and deserves every bit of the praise and buzz she’s receiving.
They’re no mere insanely pretty faces, either. Both Gosling and Stone have smarts and personality that shine through, despite the screenplay’s sometimes ridiculous shortcomings. Yes, the screenplay. Who the heck greenlit this thing? With all the money they must’ve had, they couldn’t have hired someone to perk this thing up?
The clichés, oh the clichés. This is one of those movies where the crowd acts as one simple-minded, one-minded body. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone in the office pokes their heads above their cubicles at once and claps. Everyone stands outside and with the exact same judgmental expression watches the hero’s meltdown in the school parking lot. Stuff a normal group of individuals would never do. It’s the equivalent of a laugh track in a dumb sit-com. But that’s not all.
This is also one of those movies where a geeky, kinda strange, mature-beyond-his-years child (in this case, Cal and Emily’s 14-year-old son Robbie) wryly spouts Words of Wisdom about Big Life Matters, in this case, love. Robbie’s parents’ marriage might be breaking up but with the wisdom of Yoda, he is able to take it completely in stride. At one point, after one of his pronouncements, Cal looks at said child ruefully and responds, “How old are you?” Ah, what a moment. It’s supposed to be heart-warming, I’m nearly sure of it.
It gets worse. Did you know that when a man stands out in the pouring rain, leaning sadly against his car, not even bothering to get in the car or anything, that means he’s sad? It does. Especially if he’s sad and then it suddenly starts pouring and he looks up at the sky and says, “What a cliché.” That way it’s like the universe is mirroring his feelings, but he can still be ironic about it.
Also, when a long-time couple talk about the dissolution of their marriage, here’s some dialogue they might have: “What happened to us?” “We haven’t been us in a long time.” Personally, I would immediately divorce anyone who said that to me, but that’s why I’m not a big-time Hollywood screenwriter.
At every turn the way someone behaves or responds makes sense only for the plot, not for the character or even the story. No one acts independently or surprisingly. They just respond exactly as the storyline has set them up to do. A family fight wouldn’t be funny without the police showing up.
It wouldn’t be true love if Cal didn’t create an exact replica of the miniature golf hole where he first met Emily in junior high out of stuff he bought at Home Depot and threw together while she was out on an errand. For stuff like this I’m going to blame directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who debuted together as directors on I Love You Phillip Morris, which I actually liked. There the cartoony feel worked. Here it does not.
Moore is essentially wasted here in a role that never for a second takes into account what a woman her age and in her situation might actually feel. Just as soon as Cal is ready to step up and be a man—a real man, with designer jeans (not Gap!) and designer suits and product in his designer haircut, she’s ready to take him back with open arms, no hard feelings. Why not, when the only guy a gorgeous woman like her can get is the smarmy Kevin Bacon?
Carell taps into that reservoir of melancholy that always lies under his performances, and almost too well. He sinks deep, and we sink with him. The Cinderella/Pretty Woman montage when he gets to spruce up from schlub to man-about-town is fun, as is the scene in which he totally self-destructs while talking to Marisa Tomei’s Kate, but I can’t help but bear a grudge against him, since he is the producer of this movie. He apparently doesn’t know bad writing when he sees it, and that lowers my previously very high estimation of his intelligence.
Moving on: Tomei is gorgeous and funny doing her Marisa Tomei thing in a minor but funny role, one of the only twists of this plot. (There is a bigger plot twist right before the third act, one that’s crucial to the entire story, but that one I never buy.)
How bad must it be for Josh Groban’s ego to always play the guy you obviously wouldn’t want, the unquestionably undesirable jerk. What losers he and his fellow lawyers are, what with having to work for a living and all. Don’t they know it’s so much cooler and way sexier to have a gigantic fortune at your disposal, the way Gosling’s Jacob does, and never have to work, so you can have your days free to work out and take schlumpy men (i.e. Cal) shopping and mope prettily in your enormous steel and glass and leather bachelor pad, recovering from a hard night of womanizing and Home Shopping Network cruising?
This movie is utterly conventional—not in the least crazy. And I’m afraid it is rather stupid. I’ll admit it, I did laugh. And part of me even melted during the scene when Hannah and Jacob begin to fall in love, as cheesy and corny and formulaic as it was. What can I say? Those kids are so darn cute! But it’s behavior I’m not proud of. I don’t know if I can really look myself in the eyes anymore. I’m just going to try to forget what happened and move on. You do the same, please.