Crazy, Stupid, Love is neither crazy, stupid, nor particularly romantic. It’s a movie that bungles many things, but nails many others. Its quality fluctuates from slightly below average to slightly above. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a decidedly middle-of-the-road picture, one I’m not upset I saw, but one I’ll surely forget about before the year is out. It’s likable enough, but whether it’s worth seeing is hardly worth arguing. If it interests you, see it. If it doesn’t, don’t.
If you do, this is what you’ll get: a movie about love that doesn’t spend adequate time building emotion. And that’s precisely why it’s stuck in mediocrity; because love is emotion. If you don’t feel it, it’s hard to care. However, it must not be a minute or two into the film before Cal (Steve Carell) is hearing from his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), that she wants a divorce. It doesn’t establish their relationship prior to this, yet we are asked to sympathize. In a way, we do (mainly due to Carell, who shows the anguish most people must go through when they find out the love of their life wants to leave them), but the structure of the screenplay limits it. One can’t help but wonder why the filmmakers chose not to open their film more emotionally aggressive and allow us to see the love the two had before splitting them up.
Distraught by what his wife has told him, Cal immediately moves out and starts drowning his sorrow in alcohol at a local bar. While there, ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who seems to take a girl home with him each and every night, strikes up a discussion with him. He tells him he is embarrassing himself with his self loathing and agrees to make him over, promising his wife will “rue the day” she decided to give up on him.
But of course, in a movie about love, even a ladies man like Jacob is going to find someone to care about. She comes in the form of Hannah (Emma Stone), a “game changer” (with a strange attraction to Conan O’Brien) with whom he begins to fall in love. Though wildly uneven as a whole, Crazy, Stupid, Love succeeds on little moments and the romance between Jacob and Hannah is the best example of that. Their relationship is built on virtually one scene, but it takes its time, allows for character growth and it forces viewers to reevaluate their perception of Jacob. Such a character curveball can only be done with a capable actor and Gosling is more than up to the task, emitting charm and likability at every turn, despite some shades of what seem like mild misogynism. Because of him and the always effervescent Stone, the scene comes off as strikingly authentic and deeply moving.
The problem is that it’s followed by an ending where coincidences are stacked on top of contrivances, resulting in a ridiculous string of events that takes a level, if underwhelming, movie and tips it too far to one side. By the time the credits roll, the movie has tackled issues of guilt, forgiveness, family, infidelity and depression, though “tackled” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like what would happen if a football player ran at a brick wall. He would hit it, but he’s not making an imprint.
Crazy, Stupid, Love should be something more than it is, especially given the wonderful trailers, which, sadly, do a better job of bringing forth the desired emotion. What it amounts to instead is nothing more than a barely passable movie that does something wrong for every something right.
Crazy, Stupid, Love receives 2.5/5