Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Be more 'Crazy,' less 'Stupid,' and we might 'Love' you. Also, learn proper punctuation, you sound like a schmuck.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. doesn't like you. You might try to like it, but like a guy that hits you over the head with his supposed knowledge of fine wines and French literature, this movie just doesn't know when to stop following a guide-book on romantic comedies when all we want is total honesty. I feel I should go apologize to guidebooks now for having insulted them.
Steve Carell and the always-luminous Julianne Moore are Cal and Emily, who have been married for about 25 years, having been high school sweethearts. Now Emily wants a divorce and Cal is left dumbfounded, in a pool of his own self-pity. Lucky for him, of all the (presumably many) gin joints in all the towns (presumably Los Angeles) in all the world, smooth-talking ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling in his sexiest role) overhears Cal's sob story to anyone who will listen, and decides to take Cal under his wing, giving him a new wardrobe and teaching him the tricks of how to seduce women. Meanwhile, Jacob meets Hannah, a young lawyer (played by Emma Stone, who always has a delightful glitter in her eyes) who rebuffs him upon his initial seduction and therefore must be his soulmate. Cal and Emily's 13-year-old son thinks his 17-year-old babysitter is his own soulmate, not knowing that she has a crush on Cal, his own father. Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei also pop up as potential love interests for Cal and Emily. Bacon is great fun, playing his role with a surprising amount of genuine charm and warmth, but with just enough of a hint of deviousness to make us question if he'll snatch Moore away for himself. Marisa Tomei is not allotted that dignity, for one reason or another, overplaying her role to the point of becoming a cruel caricature of a desperate, needy woman.
This movie has a wonderful cast, and their only fault is signing onto a project that is clearly beneath their talents and failing to allow very much honesty (the film's moments of genuine charm or catharsis is few and far between). Steve Carell spent 7 years on The Office playing a man whose outlandish whims were intensified by a devastating insecurity; most of the time the show felt like a game of "What Can Make The Audience Most Uncomfortable?," but Carell's finest moments of real vulnerability has made me excited to see him stretch his acting choices now that he's free from The Office. But despite moments of genuine catharsis as I've mentioned earlier, all of them involving Julianne Moore (if I'm making it sound like Ms. Moore can do no wrong, it's because she couldn't even if she tried), the role feels like a rehash of some of the most awkward moments on The Office combined with makeover scenes from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Julianne Moore has made a career out of playing adulterers, but despite her lovely gravity, the only thing that made her stand out was how often her character wears high-heels. I mean, really, it's so noticeable you'd think this role was written for Sarah Jessica Parker. Emma Stone is wonderful but her part is too small to make an impression. And even if Ryan Gosling hadn't put an iota of passion into his role, he couldn't fail if he tried--his abs are just so marvelous, even the camera is in love with them.
No, a quick trip to IMDB will tell you who to put the blame on, and that is screenwriter Dan Fogelman. Why am I so quick to blame the writer? Because this is the first thing he's done that's gotten an MPAA rating over PG. He's the man who penned one of the worst-reviewed Christmas films (Fred Clause), Pixar's weakest film (Cars and its sequel Cars 2), and has also penned Tangled and Bolt. All of these are children's films which makes it suddenly understandable where all the worst cliches of the film come from: the misunderstandings which come to merge at a family gathering, the children too precocious for their own good, the climactic speech in front of an audience which nicely wraps up the film's message and makes everyone happy again, even the rain after a harsh argument which makes Cal say, "this is so cliche!" Screenwriters, making a meta-film reference doesn't make your script any less of a cliche, it just highlights your failure to create anything original.
If the film had not busied itself with so many subplots (honestly, the son/baby-sitter/father crush-triangle went to very uncomfortable places) and focused not on Moore and Carell, who are very capable actors but didn't seem to have much chemistry but on the budding romance between Stone and Gosling, who do have a lot of chemistry, it could have reshaped the movie into something much more delightful. After all, any guy who can work Dirty Dancing into a seduction deserves more screentime. Ryan Gosling and especially his abs deserved a better screenplay. Crazy and stupid, I know. But true.