Reviewed by GREG KING

Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Stars: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore.

Life is often messy, and Crazy, Stupid, Love reflects the darker side of life and the complex nature of relationships. Crazy, Stupid, Love was written by Dan Fogelman, who is better known for family friendly animated films like Cars and its sequel, Bolt, and the recent Tangled. The film is really heartfelt, and draws upon some painful and personal elements drawn from Fogelman’s own life. This smart and sophisticated comedy about love and pain has a refreshing honesty to it. Its exploration of human failings and the complications that life throws at us rings uncomfortably true. And the film largely eschews the raunchy, puerile humour that seems to have become the norm of romantic comedies of late.

Crazy, Stupid, Love sees Steve Carell (from the US version of The Office, etc) play it essentially straight with another lonely and sad loser, a character that is not that far removed from previous roles in Dan In Real Life. Carell plays boring, straight laced businessman Cal Weaver, who learns over dinner one evening that Emily (Julianne Moore), his wife of 28 years, wants a divorce. She has been having an affair with a colleague David Lindhagen (played by Kevin Bacon).

Cal’s life falls apart, and he moves out of the house to live alone in a small apartment. He has to adjust to life as a newly single man, which is a catalyst for several other complications. He spends several nights in a local bar drowning his sorrows, until handsome Lothario Jacob (a seriously buffed Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him. Jacob gives him a makeover and teaches him how to pick up women. Meanwhile, Jacob also falls for feisty, newly minted lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone), who initially rejects his smooth overtures. And Cal’s 13-year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is obsessed with his teenaged babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who has a crush on Cal.

There are several subplots running throughout the film, but the multiple narratives are neatly brought together in a frenetic and funny sequence seemingly drawn from a French farce. One subplot is wrapped up in a rather unexpected and surprising denouement, while the climactic Valedictorian speech does seem a bit cliched.

The characters are well rounded and three-dimensional, and the stellar ensemble cast breath life into them. Carell does well with comedies that exploit his talent for playing the awkward everyman who wears his heart on his sleeve and embarrassingly inept loser. His performance here is much more grounded in reality than many of his other characterisations, and ranks as one of the best of his career.

Moore isn’t given a lot to do, but she brings her usual warmth and credible presence to her scenes. Gosling is usually seen in more dramatic roles, but he plays the smooth seductive charmer with convincing ease here, and his charming presence smooths over his character’s glib cynicism. Marisa Tomei also makes the most of her small role as a teacher who is seduced by Cal, the newly confident ladies man.

Newcomer Jonah Bobo almost steals the movie with his mature but painful performance as an adolescent wrestling with the pangs of first love, unrequited love and confused emotions. And Emma Stone continues to impress with another solid performance.

Crazy, Stupid, Love has been directed with a keen eye for the human condition by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Better known as writers (the anarchic black comedy Bad Santa, etc), Ficarra and Requa made their directorial debut with the offbeat romantic comedy I Love You Phillip Morris, which caused some controversy due to its gay themes. As is to be expected from this pair, this new romantic comedy doesn’t follow the usual neat and happy formula of most lightweight romantic comedies where everyone lives happily ever after.




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