Film

'Crazy, Stupid, Love.' Is Surprisingly Good

Crazy, Stupid, Love. understands that the love felt between two 40somethings after decades of marriage is very unlike what a kid feels for his babysitter.


Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-07-29 (General release)
UK date: 2011-09-23 (General release)
Website
Trailer

In a summer littered with big-budget sequels, second-tier superheroes, and the usual animated fare, it is a bit of a shock to find a studio comedy aimed at adults. Crazy, Stupid, Love. has an even bigger surprise going for it. It's really good.

The context for this surprise includes the recent resurgence of the R-rated comedy. These raunchy films have cleared more than a billion dollars worldwide, making them the trend du jour that guarantees at least two years worth of knockoffs. Spearheaded by The Hangover and its sequel, the comedies are filled with scatological and sexual humor, pervasive bad language, and usually a few topless actresses scattered around for good measure. Other characteristics tend to be sloppy plotting, a handful of SNL-skit-like set pieces that can’t be shown on network TV, and an almost complete lack of honest characterization. The films are often very funny. The best of them, like Bridesmaids, manage both to pander to generic conventions and, for brief moments, transcend them. But none of them is for adults. These movies are for teenagers and the teenager who lurks in most grown-ups.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. could have easily been one of these low-brow comedies. The set-up of a promiscuous ladies' man becoming the wingman to a newly single sad sack could easily have devolved into sex and diarrhea jokes. Instead, it shoots for much higher ground, exploring the ways that well-drawn characters look at love. It is refreshing to see a movie where sex is integral to the plot, but not framed by voyeurism or juvenile ignorance.

The movie opens with Cal and Emily Weaver (Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore) out to dinner. It is clear they’ve eaten together like this hundreds of times: Cal asks Emily what she wants, meaning for dessert, and gets a startling response. She wants a divorce. The camera stays focused on Cal’s face during the ride home, as he gazes wordlessly into a near distance, a look that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Cal has no idea what to do with his newfound freedom; he’s not even sure he wants it. Enter Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who frequents the same bar and goes home with a different girl every night. In one of the many plot points that could feel contrived, but somehow doesn’t, Jacob takes on Cal as a project, à la Cyrano de Bergerac or, more recently, Will Smith’s character in Hitch. Specifically, Jacob remakes Cal into an older image of his player self.

As he's rediscovering how to live in the world, Cal is watching his 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) sort out some relationship issues of his own. He's in love with his babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is in turn in love with Cal. As it turns out, Jacob isn't as immune to commitment as he thought, either, as he becomes interested in Hannah (Emma Stone). All this makes for an intricate story that weaves together very different individuals' experiences in satisfying and, in at least two instances, completely unexpected ways.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. operates with the understanding that the love felt between two 40somethings after decades of marriage is very unlike what a kid feels for his babysitter or what she feels for her employer, not to mention whatever it is that attractive young singles stumble into on their way to self-definitions. The unifying theme is that love is equally raw and potentially frightening for all of them. The title may call it crazy and stupid, but the film delves into how love makes us, in equal parts, angry and sad, nervous and intoxicated.

That unifying theme makes Crazy, Stupid, Love. a little like Love, Actually, though it has a narrower focus on a smaller cast. That movie was also a comedy for adults, viewers with experience and interests beyond movies, viewers who appreciated complicated relationships and a gradually unfolding set of stories. With any luck, Crazy, Stupid, Love. will find viewers like that.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.