Synopsis: A middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a newfound friend, Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars.
For more info and to watch the trailer, click here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1570728/
Who chose it: Leah
Why I chose it: A few years ago, my then-housemates had this movie on and I happened to watch a few scenes- I really enjoyed what I saw and have since been meaning to watch the movie in its entirety. And I can never get enough of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone playing a couple.
I have a few gripes with the romantic comedy sub-genre. First, I find the messages about love that show up in these movies to be problematic in the sorts of expectations they create for their audience. Second, the films are all simple: love is easy and the heroes are smart while the villains are stupid. Finally (and perhaps most egregiously), they often play as a wink to their audience every time they check off a cliche from the genre list, which is when I lose interest.
So what about “Crazy, Stupid, Love”? It’s a romantic comedy, but I was impressed by how kind the filmmakers were to the characters. None of them are stupid, even if they do stupid things along the way.
The dominant plot is formulaic: Cal (Steve Carrell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) abruptly get divorced and Cal meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling) in the midst of his self-loathing. Jacob takes Cal under his wing, showing him how to pick up women in bars and “rediscover his manhood.” Emily, in the meantime, is pressured by her secret lover, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), to start a more formal relationship with him.
Yet, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is ambitious: it includes two more romantic plots (including a really, really awkward love triangle) across two generations. The first is between Jacob and Hannah (Emma Stone) and the second is between Cal’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Each subplot functions according to the formula of romantic comedies: there is an unexpected change of heart and either the characters get together, or if they don’t it’s because of a really good reason. But in this film, writer Dan Fogelman uses all three parallel plots serve to highlight the film’s message: you can’t stop true love.
I return briefly to my main gripe with rom coms. In this film, women continue to reject men and the men persist in their endeavors to make the women fall for them. Even as notable as it is that the women in the film have a huge amount of agency while the men do not, the central theme boils down to “if she’s your soul mate, don’t give up.” Okay okay, I’m being a little uncharitable here, but this is exactly the simplistic theme I would expect in a rom com. If the message is the goods, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” delivers.
And now I shall confess: I think the romance on screen works, primarily because of the casting. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is an ode to casting directors everywhere. Every single actor has great chemistry with their screen partner, which not only makes the comedic climax funnier (and trust me, it’s hilarious), but also serves to make the outcomes of their relationships more heart-warming. Even as problematic as some elements of this film can be, I was still happy for everyone in the end.
The takeaway? “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the kind of romantic comedy that even a curmudgeon like myself can (and did) enjoy.
There’s a common stereotype that all women love romantic comedies. But as a woman, I’m pretty picky about what romantic comedies (particularly the modern ones) are worthy of my attention- and most “popular” rom coms don’t make my cut list with the exception of a few guilty pleasures. What I typically don’t enjoy about this genre is that the stories are usually unrealistic and the plots are thin at best- most following a similar formula followed by a very cheesy, happy ending (or they’re overly raunchy in a way that’s distracting).
When I think about the romantic comedies that I like, they have a couple things in common: they have a believable plot, they’re intelligently written, and they’re genuinely funny. When “Crazy, Stupid, Love” came out in 2011, I pegged it as another poorly-written, sleazy rom com. But when I caught a couple of scenes, I was struck by how hilarious and heartfelt they were. And, as time has gone on, my appreciation for actors such as Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone has only escalated. So here we are.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” isn’t an Oscar-worthy film. It’s not a movie that is going to have a profound effect on your life after watching it. It’s what my husband likes to call a “popcorn movie”. It’s entertaining and you don’t have to be too invested in it to enjoy. But what I like about “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is that it feels real. It’s about real relationships and how they can be messy and hard. Whether it’s going through a divorce, falling in love when least expected, or experiencing unrequited love- the characters in the movie discover that love is still worth fighting for. Even when it’s crazy or stupid. What’s more, the characters are relatable and likeable (even when they’re acting like terrible human beings) and the ending, although upbeat, doesn’t feel contrived or predictable.
The other thing that makes this film work is the acting. Many rom coms lack the acting talent they need to make the stories believable and worth caring about (or the plot is too thin to support the performances). But Carell, Gosling, and, Stone (not to mention a number of other actors) shine in their roles. Steve Carell, as Cal, is able to perfectly balance his comedic side that he is well-known for with his ability to play a serious, dramatic character. Ryan Gosling’s character is so despicable that it’s funny and his performance is impossible not to enjoy. And although her role is small, Emma Stone holds her own as an insecure but sassy counterpart to Gosling’s overconfident ladies’ man. It’s also worth noting that Gosling and Stone have some of the best on-screen chemistry that has been seen in a long time in the world of cinema.
So in short, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a great film to watch when you’re in need of entertainment, romance, a genuine laugh, maybe even a tear or two, and a good dose of Ryan Gosling (jk).
Up next: We’ll be checking out Jean-Luc Godard’s French crime drama, “Breathless” (1960). Fun fact: “Breathless” is the favorite film of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” character Terry Jeffords.
Peace out, kids.