Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
It’s always frustrating to see normally solid directors fall flat when they get a lot of studio financing and an all-star cast. Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa made a fantastic movie in last year’s I Love You Phillip Morris. It was an anti-romantic comedy based on a true story with Jim Carrey’s best performance in years! Haven’t heard of it you say? Well that’s because it wasted years on a shelf before being unceremoniously dumped into theaters because of the homosexual relationship between Carrey and Ewan McGregor. So when Ficarra and Requa were announced as director’s on the summer film Crazy, Stupid, Love I figured they’d finally get their shot to bring their own brand of humor and heart to the masses. The original script, an R-rated page turner written by Dan Fogelman, was also hilarious to boot. Boasting a cast including Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the movie should have been perfect right…so wrong! The movie’s advertising is flat-out lying to audiences touting it as a comedy when it’s anything but, combined with a watered down PG-13 rating and the blandest actors ever Crazy, Stupid, Love is a little crazy and a whole lot of stupid!
The film follows Cal Weaver (Steve Carrell) whose life changes when his wife (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce. Drowning his sorrows at a bar, Cal meets the suave Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a man who’s seduction techniques are a science. Taking pity on Cal, Jacob decides to help him “reclaim his manhood” and teach him what it takes to be the envy of men everywhere. Cal becomes the ladies man sure, but he also wants to win his wife back. Jacob also questions his life when he meets and falls for the beautiful Hannah (Emma Stone), a woman who doesn’t fall for his lines.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is another entry into the genre of films trying to be the anti-romantic comedy. On a few levels it succeeds but only in individual scenes. The relationship between Cal’s son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and his love for his older babysitter would normally be the source of laughs and/or exploitation but it’s actually a sweet story told in a realistic way. Stone’s character is also the perfect blend of what women in romantic comedies should be. She doesn’t fall for Jacob’s one-liners but isn’t defined by a man. It doesn’t save the movie and from my lack of description they aren’t very memorable moments but it’s nice that the movie didn’t fall back on all the clichés compared to last week’s Friends with Benefits.
The problems lie in the script and some possible studio fears. Directors Ficarra and Requa haven’t made a film less than R-rated, yet Crazy, Stupid, Love boasts a PG-13 rating. Considering the script has a lot of harsh language it appears that the directors fell back on what audiences want. Sadly, this has been the summer of the R-rated comedy and had everyone not been afraid of getting teenagers into the theater the movie could have been a fantastic R-rated comedy. Instead the film is a drama with a few funny one-liners that sound dubbed over (horrendously seen in Gosling’s use of the word “schwanz” covering over an obvious saying of “dick”). The advertising isn’t helping either, touting this as a comedy with some Love Actually connections. Had Ficarra and Requa just done what comes naturally the film would have sailed, instead they fell back on Hollywood clichés to disastrous effect.
The story is also scattershot with no seamless integration of Cal and Jacob’s stories, which is strange considering the film’s big twist which melds them together. The film starts out with Cal taking Jacob’s advice and trying to take pride in himself but apparently this wasn’t working because the womanizing is dropped and Gosling all but disappears till the final 20 minutes. The majority of the runtime in between is devoted to Cal moping and stalking his wife while his son stalks their babysitter. The story grinds to a halt before reviving itself in the final 20 minutes, but at 118 minutes that’s a long time to sit around listening to a bunch of sad sacks talk. If anything there should be a pretty hefty Director’s Cut somewhere out there considering how abrupt scenes end and start.
In terms of cast the strongest actors have the least amount of screen time, specifically Gosling and Stone. Gosling should have been the star of the movie because he is fantastic (and I’m not saying that because I’m female…although it’s true!). His character seems to have a huge back story which is hinted at during an intimate conversation with Stone’s character, but we never learn about him. Ladies will be coming out in droves to see this considering the advertising has hyped Gosling as heavily nude which is appreciated! Stone is literally shuffled into the background as Hannah. Her scenes with Gosling have the best chemistry, they literally sizzle together, but she never comes into her own. The majority of the film sees her sitting or standing, watching events unfold.
The “stars,” of the film are meant to be Carrell and Moore as Cal and Emily Weaver. They are just flat and have zero chemistry aside from the two always reiterating how in love they used to be. The two spit out their lines through gritted teeth and when they’re not speaking they’re moping around the house like Charlie Brown on Christmas Eve. Their constant talking about how awful their lives are result in some bland conversations that will have you checking your cell phone to see how much time has gone by. When they aren’t together you get wasted cameos from Marisa Tomei as one of Cal’s conquests and, 2011’s most overexposed actor, Kevin Bacon as the man who ruined the Weaver’s marriage. Or at least that’s his purpose as they try to shove in a relationship between him and Moore before abandoning him halfway through to obscurity. It honestly felt like Tomei and Bacon stumbled on set and decided to stick around.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a little crazy and it’s about love but it’s incredibly stupid. Another comedy billing itself as the anti-rom-com. Gosling and Stone are great in their roles but it’s enough to make you wait for DVD and just fast forward to their scenes. Ficarra and Requa are better directors then this, but maybe they should stick to indie fare.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.