Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Take on "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Everybody I know who's seen "Crazy, Stupid, Love." -- the new divorce comedy from writer Dan Fogelman and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa -- has loved it. I didn't. I liked it well enough. And it has definitely stuck with me. But I'm just not 100% on board with it. And I'm not exactly sure why.

On paper, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." sounds perfect for me (with the exception of that second comma and the period at the end, both of which really bug). I love Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. I like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I love romantic comedies (I wrote about 35 of them for Harlequin Books, after all) and some of my favorite Hollywood movies are the divorce/remarriage comedies, like "The Awful Truth" and "The Philadelphia Story." There's just something irresistible about two people who clearly belong together who are having a hard time seeing that fact as clearly as we in the audience do.

The trailer for "Crazy, Stupid, Love." makes it look like a laugh-a-minute comedy, but when you're actually watching the film, it becomes clear pretty quickly that that's not really what it is. Instead, it's a sweet, sad movie about the difficulty and pain involved in opening yourself up, the awkwardness of trying to reach out, and overall, just how tough (and yes, crazy and stupid) love can be. And there are times when the aching vulnerability of its characters make "Crazy, Stupid, Love." kind of hard to watch. We've all been stupid for love at some point in our lives, whether we're middle-aged, like Cal and Emily, the couple who've been married for 25 years but are on the verge of divorce, or in the prime of our lives, like 20-somethings Jacob and Hannah -- he's a suave player, while she's the smart girl who keeps spurning his advances -- or so young it hurts, like 17-year-old babysitter Jessica, who has a crush on Cal even as her 13-year-old charge, Robbie, desperately yearns for her.

Steve Carell is a much better actor than people give him credit for (well, it may be his own fault. "Dinner for Schmucks,"anyone?) and he does a beautiful job with Cal, the man who wears New Balance sneakers and baggy Dockers, who is so surprised that his wife wants a divorce that he completely shuts down. Cal is the heart of the movie, and Carell makes every on-screen moment count.

Julianne Moore gets less to do as Emily, the wife who dumps him, and her character is also less sympathetic. Still, the two have excellent chemistry, and Moore makes you wish we got more time with Emily to really figure out what went wrong.

Ryan Gosling has been given the showiest role, as Jacob the womanizer who takes pity on poor Cal and gives him a makeover and some serious lessons in How to Pick Up Chicks. He's been dressed to look like a hipster fashion maven with a hard candy shell, but it is to Gosling's credit that he can do the about-face the script demands and suddenly show the cracks in the perfect facade. He is lucky enough to be playing opposite Emma Stone as Hannah the law student, since she has a warmth and intelligence that humanizes her love interest, too.

Supporting players Kevin Bacon (as the guy Emily cheats with) and Marisa Tomei (as a woman Cal picks up in a bar) do fine work, adding good energy and humor to the mix.

Even the youngsters -- former "America's Next Top Model" contender Analeigh Tipton as Jessica, the babysitter, and a scruffy kid named Jonah Bobo as Cal and Emily's son Robbie -- are compelling and authentic, as well as easy to root for. Still, the sexy bits they get involved in are more than a little cringe-worthy.

My other problems with "Crazy, Stupid, Love." (aside from the title punctuation) are the plot points that strain credulity, like all these people in what looks like a thriving suburban area all going to the same bar, and even though some of them know each other, they never see each other at that bar where they all hang out. There are other big coincidences that I'm not going to spoil, but let's just say that I felt like they were a bit of a cheat, too.

So there's the rub. I fell in love a little, especially with hapless Cal, the regular guy dealt such a hard blow at the beginning. He felt very real, so real I began to root for him and hurt for him and want him to turn out okay. But in the home stretch, Fogelman's script undercut the real emotions with whiz-bang comedy coincidences and slapstick melees, with "Oh, no!" reveals and out-of-nowhere payoffs, instead of a really satisfying conclusion. It's the old bait and switch. Or maybe just a screenwriter who didn't trust his own characters, who felt the need to go silly instead of sentimental when it counted most.


Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Screenwriter: Dan Fogelman

Cast incudes: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Beth Littleford, John Carroll Lynch, Liza Lapira, Joey King and Josh Groban.

Running time: 1:58
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Currently playing at Carmike Palace Cinema 10, Starplex Normal Stadium 14 and Wehrenberg Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cinema.


  1. In addition to that extra comma, isn't there officially a period at the end of the title, too? WHAT??? Why do they do this, why?

  2. I didn't notice the period, so I went to check, and you are correct.

    AAARGH. As if the comma weren't enough...

    I can fan-wank a reason for the commas, like we're implying, "It's crazy! It's stupid! It's love!" and only managing to verbalize, "Crazy, Stupid, Love." Which gets a period the way I just put it, but certainly doesn't need one as a title. And nobody with any connection to the movie has said anything about any of this, so... WHY? WHY?

  3. Is this part of the growth of the new rhetorical punctuation (a return to Elizabethan practice?)? I admit, the first time I saw "Best. Day. Ever.", I thought it was funny, and even adopted it myself on occasion. But it's overfamiliar now, and in any case I don't see what the commas are giving us in this situation (your explanation is the best I've heard), and I REALLY don't get how the period adds anything.

  4. Plain old "Crazy Stupid Love" would've been a much better choice all around. Note the lack of commas or period in the poster.

    I kind of wonder if whoever came up with the title is from the "Throw some commas at the page and see were they land" school of punctuation. That is not my school.

    So are you refusing to see the movie in protest over the comma and period?

    Odd trivia note: I've seen both Steve Carell and Julianne Moore on stage, him in Second City in Chicago and her in "Hamlet" at the Guthrie. So far, no Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei or Kevin Bacon in person or on stage, however.