At the movies: *Crazy, Stupid, Love*

Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone
Rated PG-13 
Warner Bros. – Drama, Romance, Comedy
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Written By: Dan Fogelman

Studio summary, via
fortysomething, straight-laced Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the
dream-good job, nice house, great kids and marriage to his high school
sweetheart. But when Cal learns that his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore),
has cheated on him and wants a divorce, his “perfect” life quickly
unravels. Worse, in today’s single world, Cal, who hasn’t dated in
decades, stands out as the epitome of un-smooth. Now spending his free
evenings sulking alone at a local bar, the hapless Cal is taken on as
wingman and protégé to handsome, thirtysomething player Jacob Palmer
(Ryan Gosling). — (C)

 At this point in my summer movie-going, I’m usually ready for something that isn’t special-effects-heavy, is at least somewhat realistic in concept, and has no connection to Comic-Con at all. It’s not that I don’t like that stuff – I do enjoy my popcorn movies and genre films, which is borne out by my attendance at X-Men: First Class and Super 8 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 and Captain America during the last couple of months. (There was also Horrible Bosses, which was very funny and very wrong and comic-bookish in an entirely different way.) But I do crave what I call “movies for grown-ups” every now and then.

Crazy, Stupid, Love isn’t as “crazy” overall as some of the scenes selected for its trailer might imply, although it does have its screwball-comedy moments. And while some of the characters in it did some stupid things, I didn’t think the movie was “stupid” at all – pretty smart and observant, actually. It is a movie for grown-ups. and I pretty much loved it.

“Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,” Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) tells her husband Cal (Steve Carell). “Can women have midlife crises?” (I say yes, FTR.) The Weavers have been together since they first met as fifteen-year-olds and have been married for 25 years – and Emily has just informed Cal that she slept with someone else and wants a divorce. Thrown completely for a loop, Cal moves out of their house and into a standard-issue “divorced-dad” apartment and begins spending the evenings when his kids aren’t visiting at an upscale bar. Smooth-talking Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling and His Amazing Abs) frequents the same bar, leaving it with a different woman almost every time. But to Cal’s surprise, Jacob has noticed him too…and he’s decided to make Cal’s re-introduction to the single life his personal project.

Some of Cal’s makeover – better-fitting clothes, a good haircut – takes, and some of it doesn’t; he’s going through the motions of “moving on,” but really doesn’t want to. Emily seems ambivalent about it too; she hasn’t done much about actually getting that divorce, or about taking her relationship with co-worker David (Kevin Bacon) past the one-night-stand stage. The couple’s 13-year-old son Robbie is acting out at school and ardently pursuing Jessica, his 17-year-old former babysitter. Jacob, meanwhile, has re-encountered the one woman, newly-minted attorney Hannah (Emma Stone), who would not leave that bar with him – and, as he tells Cal a few weeks later, she’s a “game-changer.”

Part of Crazy, Stupid, Love’s appeal for me is that it’s a movie about relationships  that’s emphatically not a “chick flick” (Tall Paul can confirm this if you have doubts about that), and it’s a movie centered on non-superhero male characters that doesn’t find all its humor in frat-boy stunts. There are a few set-piece laugh scenes, but most of the humor is character-derived, and so is the surprising emotional weight of this film. These people – even Jacob, that player – are well-drawn and real, and the dialogue is mostly true-to-life. However, what really stands out about the writing is the compassionate tone it takes toward its subjects. And in a cast full of Academy-Award-nomination veterans – Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Emma Stone – Steve Carell holds his own quite well, although there’s one scene in that bar where he’s definitely channeling Michael Scott.

Entertainment Weekly gave Crazy, Stupid, Love an A and called it “the single best mainstream movie for adults this summer.” I think they nailed it. If you’re ready for a “movie for grown-ups” yourself, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with this one.

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