With Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei; Running Time 118 minutes; Rated PG-13 (for coarse humor, sexual content and language); Written by Dan Fogelman; Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa.
Less romantic comedy than knockabout farce, CRAZY STUPID LOVE is one of those movies that probably won’t stand up to close inspection, but while you’re watching it you’ll be having too good a time to notice. This is in that curious sub-genre of films like “The Awful Truth” and “Divorce American Style” in which a couple splits, takes on new lovers, and then begins to wonder whether or not they have made a terrible mistake.
Cal (Steve Carell) is stunned when his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) announces not only that she wants a divorce but she has slept with someone from her office (Kevin Bacon having fun as the sleazy rival). Cal moves out and though he makes time for his kids, he finds himself sitting in a singles bar putting off the rare interested woman by talking only of his failed marriage. Jacob (Ryan Gosling) is a smooth operator who decides to take Cal under his wing. He changes his wardrobe and haircut, gives him talking points, and sends him out to be a swinging bachelor.
At this point the movie is only getting started, throwing down a variety of complications which – as in the best farces – soon become even more complicated than we could have imagined. There’s the 17-year-old babysitter on whom Cal’s 13-year-old son has a crush, and who, in turn, has a crush on Cal. There’s young law student Hannah (Emma Stone) whose careful plans for the future fall apart and who then throws herself at Jacob. There’s Cal’s first bar pick-up, Kate (Marisa Tomei), whom he tries to seduce with a drink only to learn she’s five years sober. All of these stories end up in unexpected places thanks to the careful plotting of Dan Fogelman’s script.
There’s some solid ensemble work here, with Steve Carell playing Cal as a guy who is crushed at having lost his childhood sweetheart and then sneaks back home to water their garden. Even as his confidence builds, he lets us know this is not where Cal wants to be. Julianne Moore and Ryan Gosling are not known for work in comedy, yet both seem to instinctively know that they are much funnier by playing their parts straight. Carell is a comedian who has some leeway to play it broadly. Moore and Gosling play their roles as if they are in earnest dramas, making their characters that much funnier. Stone and an underutilized Tomei do have track records in comic films, knowing when to play it a bit large and when to reign it in.
“Crazy Stupid Love” tells us that true love and marriage are good, and empty sexual encounters are not. This is not news nor particularly original, but by keeping things moving at a fast pace co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa provide us with plenty of laughs along the way. As farce it’s more about confusion and miscommunication than in providing us any real insights into love or marriage, but audiences just wanting to sit back and be entertained should have a great time.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.