Directed by the creative duo that brought us the balls-out funny film I Love You Phillip Morris from last year, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa make another hilarious, sometimes wicked comedy full of heart. Crazy, Stupid, Love features a parade of different relationships, some inappropriate, but manages to make each vivid and distinct while packing the best moments in the central story around Steve Carell and Julianne Moore’s characters.
Moore and Carell play Cal and Emily, high school sweethearts that married, had kids, and find themselves distant strangers. Emily wants a divorce and Cal quickly and quietly acquiesces. Cal gets taken in by Jacob (Ryan Gosling) a smooth cad who gives this sad sack a new wardrobe and tutorial on how to pick up women. Bumbling at first, Cal becomes quite the ladies man to the shock of Emily. Meanwhile, Emily is being courted by David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon STILL HOT), a sweet accountant at her job that she had a one-night stand with before asking Cal for the divorce.
Also there’s young Robbie (Jonah Bobo) the son of Emily and Cal who loves his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who actually has a crush on Cal- must have been watching The World According to Garp to many times. Cal has no idea about this, but word of his dalliances encourage young Jessica to make a bold move. Meanwhile, Jacob meets Hannah (Emma Stone) and unsuccessfully tries to pick her up at a bar. Later in the film, Hannah dumps her boyfriend and takes Jacob up on his original offer. They start dating and Jacob abandons his playboy ways, but seeks help from Cal on how to be the good dependable guy he originally objected to in Cal.
All these romantic entanglements are a set up for a pleasing comedy of errors when all the love flying around begins to collide in some unexpected ways. Yet the key relationship manages to be Moore and Carell’s. The ending stretch of the film rightly focuses in on them, tying things up in a heartwarming and believable final scene. Carell is excellent here as a romantic lead. Like in Dan in Real Life, a movie I love, Carell has our sympathies no matter if he’s being sweet or alienating all the other characters. Cal’s flaw, similar to Dan, is his self-righteousness that comes out in lectures to other characters while he breaks his own rules. With Carell there an enduring goodness that keeps the character from drowning.
Julianne Moore is superb in a tricky role. She starts the film as the person we might hate for cheating on Cal, yet Moore wins us as well pushing Cal to participate in their relationship. We see Emily through Cal’s eyes and hope these two can come together. Gosling proves that he can look hot doing just about anything and gives a convincing performance as a lonely cad who changes for the right girl. Kevin Bacon’s David gets painted by Cal as a seducer, but turns out to be a sweetheart that we secretly want Emily to give a shot. Emma Stone isn’t in the film enough unfortunately, but is hilarious and cute when she appears. Other side players, Marisa Tomei as a lusty and vengeful middle school teacher and John Carroll Lynch as Jessica’s dad deliver great laughs and offer full characters even though their scenes mainly drive the plot. Even Josh Groban is good as Hannah’s clueless douche boyfriend.
Crazy Stupid Love rises above schlocky romantic comedy fare because amid the chaos, Ficarra and Requa focus on the central couple. Multi plotted stories like He’s Just Not That Into You fall flat for having too many stories with none being fully developed. I left the theater feeling like I knew Emily and Cal, like new friends from a great dinner party. Also, Ficarra and Requa have a rare talent of balancing wicked humor with sweetness. Aside from Emily and Cal, every other character’s romantic pursuit sways to the inappropriate sphere, yet I felt like each person was well intentioned and not too creepy. When you find yourself rooting for a 13-year-old kid winning the heart (someday) of his 17-year-old baby sitter you know you are in the hands of a master.