Crazy Stupid Love * * *

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Directors: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Writer: Dan Fogelman

Cast: Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Running Length: 118 minutes

Synopsis: 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). In an effort to help Cal get over his wife and start living his life, Jacob opens Cal’s eyes to the many options before him: flirty women, manly drinks and a sense of style that can’t be found at Supercuts or The Gap. Despite Cal’s makeover and his many new conquests, the one thing that can’t be made over is his heart, which seems to keep leading him back to where he began.  

Review: It’s very difficult to find a fresh romantic comedy these days, as this is one of the genres that have literally been done to death. This is why Crazy Stupid Love comes across as a surprise – it’s funny and touching at the same time, and whilst not all its attempts at breaking out of the confines of the romantic comedy are successful, it’s different enough to set it apart from many similar films.

Crazy Stupid Love is essentially an ensemble movie much like Love, Actually and its ilk, but the film has a smaller cast with stronger associations to each other. However, the film also suffers from character bias, with some characters getting much more screen time than the rest. This isn’t necessarily a flaw, but all the characters in Crazy Stupid Love are so interesting that the imbalance may leave some audiences craving for more. It is to the cast’s credit that almost the entire ensemble is engaging, with even the younger actors putting in a relatively good effort.

The standout is Ryan Gosling, who has proven repeatedly that he is a great actor, and in Crazy Stupid Love he brings the right mix of smarminess and vulnerability, and although he has relatively less screen time compared to Steve Carrell, Gosling’s scenes (especially those with Emma Stone) are very memorable. Julianne Moore has even less face time, but her nuanced portrayal of a middle-aged woman in a quandary about her love and married life is one of the best I’ve seen in years. There’s also great chemistry between the main leads, and in a romantic comedy this is what ultimately makes or breaks the film.

One of the other little pleasures of Crazy Stupid Love lies in its excellent soundtrack, which features an eclectic mix of music ranging from Thievery Corporation to Nina Simone. Music can add a lot of texture to a film, and this is definitely the case in Crazy Stupid Love. (A side note, Late Night Alumni’s You Can Be the One is featured in the film but not on the soundtrack album – definitely a song to check out)

Interestingly, it’s the smaller scenes in Crazy Stupid Love that work well – some truly standout sequences include a phone conversation between Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore, and another scene in which Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make drunken small talk. In contrast, the big, plot-resolving set pieces near the end of the film feel farcical and artificial, and is one of the reasons why the film doesn’t rank higher on my list of romantic comedies. However, it manages to hit a good number of right notes as a romantic comedy, and is definitely one of the better films released of late.

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

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