An unfocused collection of relationships that deserve better movies.
It's the story of two men: Cal (Steve Carell) and Jacob (Ryan Gosling). The film opens with Cal's wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), requesting a divorce. No one seems to understand or sympathize with him. But then he meets Jacob, a womanizer in his frequented bar. Jacob tells Cal to stop being such a sad sack and to learn how to live life his way: without bounds.
And then there's Hannah (Emma Stone), who passes under the grip of Jacob with a hard-to-get attitude. The romance that blooms between the two of them is the only believable and romantic thing in the entire film. But, alas, the film is not about the two of them. It's about our leading men. And unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't understand that.
Let me give you a rundown of some of the ridiculous subplots that are going on in this film: Emily is having an affair with a coworker, David (Kevin Bacon). Cal has a one night stand with Marisa Tomei, who provides the most pointless character in the entire film. Cal and Emily's 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica, has a crush on 44-year-old Cal (gross). Cal and Emily's 13-year-old son has found true love in his babysitter, the same Jessica.
It's these things and more that the film tries to wrap up into a focused story. But instead of defining the characters at the helm of it all, it distracts from them. There's a scene where Emily asks Cal, "When did we stop being 'us'?" It's a good question, but the movie never answers it. Sure, in the end they realize they need each other, but what broke them apart? She cheated on him, but there were other issues in their marriage that were never unveiled. Whatever was broken in their relationship is never fixed.
That's just one of the many questions that I had about this film. Others pressed my mind: why does Jacob waste so much of his time helping this loser, Cal, when he only cares about girls? Why do Cal's kids prefer him over their mom? Who is this character of Emily and what defines her? Why do NONE of the dozens of girls that sleep with Jacob for one night ever return to the bar where he is always at to see him with other girls? The film is so busy shooting loose strands of plot everywhere that it never establishes a central mold or a group of well-defined characters.
Not everything in Crazy, Stupid, Love is quite so frustrating. The cast glows. I love Carell's way of mixing sarcastic humor with his misery (like when he refers to his bartender as a "c*cktail servant"). Gosling sizzles in his snappy role, and he proves to be quite funny as well. Emma Stone is a real sweetheart in just about everything, as is Julianne Moore, though neither of them are given very much to work with.
The movie has good moments but it's tedious as a whole. Take for instance the scene near the very end where all of the secrets come out. The shocking result is hilarious in its slapstick nonsense, but the scene doesn't belong in the movie. Other moments like the night between Gosling and Stone stand out wonderfully. Sadly, the film has fewer genuine and fresh moments than it does the cringe-inducing clichéd moments. What could be passable as just an obligatory cliché turns sour when the screenplay puts it in the most awkward and unbelievable points of the film.
I wanted desperately to like this movie. I love the cast and they have good chemistry. The simple moments in the film are the best--the scenes where two characters are just talking in ways that aren't deliberately moving the plot forward. But too often the screenplay takes control, throwing in forced complexities and decelerating the momentum. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa lose focus early on and don't ever work to bring it back.
There's a good movie in here somewhere--three good movies actually. I would like to see an in-depth character study into the relationship of Cal and Emily; how it broke apart and what brought them back together. I could watch a satirical romantic comedy with the characters of Jacob and Hannah, and how she dismantles his womanizing ways. I even think a good dramedy could develop in the relationship between Cal and Jacob, two complete opposites searching for something they see in each other. But Crazy, Stupid, Love is mistaken in thinking that all three of these relationships can work with the same group of characters. This isn't a horrible movie. But, oh, it's a frustrating one.