There’s always something I can find to love in a romantic comedy. I can always appreciate the sense of wish fulfillment, the authentic sweetness of some, or just how, well, love-able some of the characters can be. In Crazy, Stupid, Love’s case, it’s all three. Crazy Stupid Love (or “CSL” as it’s going to be known for the rest of this review) is, at times, predictable and it’s a film that by all means plays to the romantic comedy tropes, but it’s also a movie that uses those tropes to keep it familiar to it’s audience and take those tropes to the next level, setting a new standard for the genre. The movie follows three different stories of love, including Cal Weaver (Carell) who’s taking a passive-aggressive approach to his wife Emily’s (Moore) sudden infidelity and divorce, Jacob Palmer (Gosling) who has to deal with an entirely different approach to love when he meets “the one” (Stone), and Cal’s son (Courtney), who’s dealing with his own efforts in love trying to woo the girl of his dreams (Tipton) that also just so happens to be his babysitter. As you might can tell by the amount of last names in parenthesis, the film has one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the summer, and it uses each actor’s instinctive talent to make the film’s madly entertaining story complex even better. Steve Carell, while really still just playing up his Steve Carell shtick for the most part, still brings a great deal of emotion and comedic timing to what could have been a flat characterization, and his opposite lead Ryan Gosling has some surprisingly hilarious moments as the ladies’ man of the bar that knows all the tricks. Gosling, who’s helped out a tremendous bit by how well his character is written, really sells that charisma and goofball charm through the whole movie. Julianne Moore (who is surprisingly gorgeous to be pushing 50) also brings some life to her character, as does Emma Stone, who lends her impeccable comedic skill that we saw in Easy A to it all. Marissa Tomei briefly pops in for a handful of hysterical scenes as Cal’s first post-divorce swing, and this summer’s best bad guy Kevin Bacon appears briefly in all his smirky but inexplicably despicable glory. While the whole cast comes from very different backgrounds in an acting sense, they compliment each other admirably. The natural chemistry there that’s hard enough to nail just between two leads in any other romantic comedy is especially difficult in a six-person ensemble, but somehow CSL strikes it just right. The movie’s soundtrack is among the year’s best, hitting much like 2009’s 500 Days of Summer (another brilliant mid-summer chick flick), hitting the notes between inspirational and appropriately upbeat to accentuate the natural fun in some of the scenes where Cal’s trying to woo a new bride-to-be or Jacob’s on his merry way teaching the tricks of wooing said brides. CSL takes a unique approach to the romantic comedy with the somewhat-familiar approach of taking three seemingly unrelated stories and at the end tying them all together, teaching a different aspect of the same lesson from each one. Basically it acts as a more romantic version of an episode of Seinfeld or a less dramatized version of an episode of Scrubs. It works so well for CSL though because at the beginning of the story all three stories seem so dissimilar, and once they all do intersect in the cinematic equivalent of a train crash in the last 30 minutes of the film, you’ll start really realizing what this movie’s trying to say about the inherent insanity and the intrinsic stupidity of love and infatuation. One story’s teaching you the integrity of love, the other teaching you the persistence of it and the other educating us on love’s innate surprise at times as far as timing goes. I would have been more than willing to watch three separate films about each of these stories in one big Crazy-Stupid-Love trilogy, but I can’t say the frantic spirit of it all didn’t entertain me. The first third of the film where all these character arcs are being introduced is just a bit clunky, but as I’ve said as the movie goes on more and more that intersecting becomes more fluid and far more enjoyable. But the film doesn’t work just as an over-arching PowerPoint lesson on how love works (or doesn’t work in a lot of cases), the movie also knows how to carry its weight in the funny and the sweet moments. The whole series of events that follows Cal being trained by Jacob to be a ladies man that’s plastered all over the trailers is just as funny if not funnier than they make it out to be, and several other sequences thoroughly succeed at being tremendously hilarious or overwhelmingly sweet and romantic, if not both. There’s one particular scene in the movie where Jacob’s attempting to woo his “the one”, and instead of playing it up to romantic comedy standards of overbearing schmaltziness, it almost plays off of those types of scenes and those expectations to make a very charming scene of Jacob and Hanna beginning to fall in love. CSL is better than I thought it’d be, and that’s coming from someone who had really high expectations for the movie. Aside from being just a little predictable in spots, it’s ridiculously charming, consistently hilarious, and in the end of it all it has a terrific lesson that, in a rare occurrence for me, I actually was able to take to heart and think on. Led by a captivating cast and a script that goes beyond the romantic-comedy call of duty, as far as I’m concerned it’s set a new standard for how crazy stupid loveable a romantic comedy can be.
5 out of 5