July 29, 2011





CRAZY STUPID LOVE – Worth A Ticket:  It All Works



Without further ado:  CRAZY STUPID LOVE is the comedy of the summer.  Also the drama.  There are certainly spectacles out there now providing fantastic visual thrills, and some of them (X-Men, Harry Potter) are quite good, too; but if you want to watch an uproarious, surprising story about human beings whose only magic powers are for screwing up and somehow managing to keep trying again, this is your movie.

The script by Dan Fogelman (previously known mostly for cartoons like the original Cars, Tangled and Bolt) and direction by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (themselves screenwriters, with idiosyncratic films to their names like Bad Santa and I Love You, Philip Morris) are triumphs of tone that mix slapstick with surprising poignancy.  The story begins with the marital break-up of Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), a function of midlife crisis and Emily’s straying with co-worker David (Kevin Bacon).  Cal is utterly bereft by the loss of his family, and his attempts to rejoin the dating scene are pathetically bad.  He’s fascinated to watch a local Lothario, Jacob (Ryan Gosling) in action, and Jacob in turn is amused and horrified by Cal’s failures; he takes Cal under his wing, teaching him tricks to attract women.


This is the part of the movie featured in the marketing, and it delivers a lot of big laughs, fueled by the terrific comic chemistry between Carell and Gosling.  The great thing about Crazy Stupid Love, though, is that even that relationship has more to it than just comedy:  Cal may master Jacob’s tips, but he’s too genuine to use them without feeling, and on some level, Jacob envies that.  And all of this is just a slice of the film’s portrait of romantic and family misadventure, which keeps expanding to such an extent that I can’t reveal some of what happens toward the end without spoiling the fun.  We stay with the developing friendship between Cal and Jacob, but we’re also following Jacob’s own relationship with the reluctant Hannah (Emma Stone), a young lawyer who threatens to change Jacob’s carefree theories about sex and life.  We watch Emily’s experiences as a newly single woman, and the awkward crush her son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has on his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton)–not to mention Jessica’s own romantic issues.  At its best, Crazy Stupid Love recalls the classic Woody Allen movies of the 1970s and 80s, presenting a wide, varied portfolio of lovers both skilled and inept.

The cast is just about perfect.  Carell keeps his physical comedy emotionally grounded and delivers a performance more like his work in Dan In Real Life and Little Miss Sunshine than in his big-budget vehicles.  Julianne Moore is, as always, remarkably truthful even in comedy, and she and Carell fit together better than you’d expect.  Gosling is the film’s major surprise, effortlessly shifting from the wrenching indie drama of Blue Valentine to reveal himself as a suddenly deft Hollywood comedian; it’s no surprise at this point, though, that Stone is peerlessly appealing and smart.  Marisa Tomei is hysterical in a role that shouldn’t be described in too much detail, and the lesser-known Bobo and Tipton more than hold their own in the ensemble.


Crazy Stupid Love is so smoothly engineered that it’s easy to underrate:  Ficarra, Requa and Fogelman maneuver hairpin turns between pathos and farce as though they’re moving up their own driveway.  There are a few minor missteps (the ending could be a little less neat), and the movie is content to work within the confines and style of conventional Hollywood filmmaking–there’s nothing innovative about it.  (Although the cinematography by Andrew Dunn–he shot Precious, among many others–and editing by Lee Haxall are notably first-rate.)  But it affords the pleasure of a marvelous story, superbly told.

This has been an odd summer for comedy:  R-rated comedies aplenty, all of them proud of their own raunch, and all of them tremendously successful (only Friends With Benefits won’t get to $100M, and even that film will do fine), but hardly anything geared to simple old-fashioned storytelling.  This could well explain the huge success of Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, an intelligent, likable little film that’s exploded (by indie standards) at the boxoffice, even though no one would seriously compare it to his classic work.  Crazy Stupid Love, with its PG-13 rating and largely older cast, seems unlikely to hit the first weekend heights of its rowdy mates–Mitch Metcalf is predicting a mild $16M opening–but it should thrive over time as people see it and spread the word.  It’s sane exhilarating good.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."