Crazy, Stupid, Love: Comedy, Co-Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone

One of this summer’s best-acted comedies, Crazy, Stupid, Love exudes charm, largely due to the star performances of Steve Carell, a reliable pro in a rather familiar role, and particularly Ryan Gosling, cast as a cool and dashing ladykiller, adding another facet to his already distinguished career.

The movie also shows improvement for its co-directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (who wrote the nastily entertaining “Bad Santa”), whose last picture, “I Love You Phillip Morris” was eccentric,  structurally messy and poorly executed.

A multi-generational ensemble piece, with at least six fully drawn characters, “Crazy, Stupid, Love”  pays tribute to the screwball comedy of yesteryear, in which the adult figures behaved childishly, making fools of themselves in their private and public life, and then putting their lives back together with the help of their offsprings, who are less mature and less experienced.

As written by Dan Fogelman (who previously penned Pixar’s “Tangled” and “Cars,” the first hour of the narrative is extremely satisfying, offering some poignant insights and fresh humor into love, marriage, and divorce.  But in the second half, the tale deteriorates into an old-fashioned, middlebrow fare, with life lessons and morals for all the concerned characters, inistsing on pat and joyous ending, which is too neat and cute.

Nominally, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” belongs to the genre of male menopause, namely, films about midlife crisis.  In this case, Cal Weaver (Carell), a fortysomething insurance exec, is going through a major crisis, which forces him to reevaluate his entire life, when his long-time wife (and high-school sweetheart) Emily (Julianne Moore) confesses to having an affair with co-worker David (Kevin Bacon).  Out of the blue, without any warning or sign, Emily announces that she wants a divorce.

Simply and quickly, Cal’s entire life falls apart. Having the rug pulled out from under him, he flails around, trying to find his footing. Shocked and bewildered, and feeling sorry for himself, Cal begins to frequent the same bar night after night, telling everyone who would listen that he had been cuckolded.

It turns out that Cal has been observed by a regular customer at the bar, a cool, handsome womanizer named Jacob Palmer (played with gusto and panache by Ryan Gosling).  In their first, crucial encounter, which turns out to be fateful, Jacob tells Cal squarely: “You’ve got a kind face.  You’ve got a good head of hair. You seem like a nice guy. I’m going to help you rediscover your manhood. Do you have any idea when you lost it?”

What ensues is sort of a crush basic training, in which the younger Jacob trains and instructs the middle-aged Cal in how to dress, how to approach women, how to court, what to say, even how to make love.  Slowly, the initially reluctant Cal begins to listen and goes on a series of dates.

All along, it’s established that Cal is a good, devoted father to two children, who still vie for him to reunite with their mom, especially son Robbie, age 13.

Until his parents’ separation, Robbie has always viewed the idea of love through rosy glasses, seeing their marriage as the ultimate love story. When they split up, the young boy, who goes through his own first love (with a girl at his school who’s four yearsolder), ironically becomes Cal’s voice of reason.

There have been previous movies (actually cycles of films) about male menopause and midlife crises, such as “The Doctor” with William Hurt, “Regarding Henry” with Harrison Ford, and more recently “Life as a house” with Kevin Kline. But all of these pictures, while well cast and well acted, were done as melodramas that bordered on the sentimental and even schmaltzy.  In contrast, what’s refreshing about “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is that, though the filmmakers often slide into familiar melodramatics, they don’t forget for too long that the movie is essentially a comedy and thus try to locate humor and humanity even in situations of pathos.

Steve Carell (also credited as a producer) is extremely credible and touching as a guy who has convinced himself that he is happy and content in his marriage, to the point of being totally blindsided by his wife’s admission to an affair.  Caught off-guard, initially, he can’t even think, but then he embarks on a process of self-examination—and self-discovery. He begins to reevaluate his entire life, trying to separate the important from the trivial details and then to become more proactive.

Scribe Fogelman actually wrote the screenplay with Carell in mind for the character of Cal, and you can see why.  Appealing, if not particularly handsome in a physical way, Carell excels at conveying vulnerability of an ordinary guy like no other comedian-actor working today.   With his open, expressive face, and sad, touching eyes, every word and gesture he makes is candid and rings true.

But the surprise performance in the film belongs to Gosling, who has never looked so handsome and has never done such outre comedy before.
In its eagerness to please, the film is determined to resolve all the romantic and emotional dilemmas with one big happy denouement.  Actually, a series of endings, because the film, which overextends its welcome by at least 10-15 minutes, doesn’t know when and how to end.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” aims to show that, when it comes to love, age is an irrelevant variable, that there are some universal truths, which sociologists and anthropologists may doubt.  In this picture, whether the characters are a married middle-aged going through divorce, passionate youngsters in their twenties, or teenagers experiencing their first real crush, love makes us do crazy, stupid things that we later regret.

It’s safe to say that viewers who believe in the notions (myths?) of one great love and a single life soul-mate would embrace the picture wholeheartedly.


Cal Steve Carell

Jacob Ryan Gosling

Emily Julianne Moore

Hannah Emma Stone

Kate Marisa Tomei

David Lindhagen Kevin Bacon



Warner release of a Carousel/Di Novi Pictures production.

Produced by Steve Carell, Denise Di Novi.

Executive producers, David A. Siegel, Vance DeGeneres, Charlie Hartsock. Co-producer, Eryn Brown.

Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa.

Screenplay, Dan Fogelman.