by Mel Valentin
In yet another summer endlessly crammed with mega-budgeted blockbusters, R-rated comedies ("Bridesmaids," "The Hangover II," "Bad Teacher," "Horrible Bosses") have proven, through their combination of low production costs and high relative returns at the box office, to be, if not sure things, then sound investments by the Hollywood studios that financed them. Those comedies, however, depended on crude, rude, vulgar humor (the better to take advantage of that R-rating), leaving moviegoers starved for adult-oriented comedies unsatisfied. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s ("I Love You Phillip Morris"), latest film, "Crazy, Stupid, Love," an ensemble romantic comedy-drama, offers sophisticated, if no less commercial, ultimately fails to deliver on that promise, offsetting a stellar cast and, on occasion, insightful, incisive humor, with one too many implausibilities, shallow-end-of-the-pool characterizations, and a misguided third act turn toward farce and speechifying, and a feel-good ending that never feels earned (because it isn’t).When we first meet Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), a forty-something or other white-collar type (we never learn what, exactly, Cal does for a living), he’s having dinner at a high-end restaurant with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Emily (Julianne Moore). In tears, Emily practically spits out her desire for a divorce. A conflict-avoider by temperament or experience, Cal immediately sinks into non-communicative passivity. When a still emotional Emily presses the point on the ride back to his soon-to-be-former-home, disclosing an affair with a co-worker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon in an underwritten role), Cal threatens to jump out of the car if Emily continues to talk. When she doesn’t, he follows through, surviving the fall with just a few minor stains and scuffmarks and minimal bruising. Out of denial, acceptance, or meekness, Cal immediately agrees to move out, only informing his two children, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and Molly (Joey King), out of a deadened sense of obligation.
"A rom-com-dram that's less than the sum of its parts."
A depressed Cal finds solace, if not company, at a swank local bar. Boring the other customers with his marital tale of woe, Cal eventually comes to the attention of the bar’s resident womanizer/pick-up artist, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). In one of many inexplicable plot turns in Crazy, Stupid, Love., Jacob decides to take Cal under his wing, training him in the not-so-mysteries ways of picking up women. Jacob gives Cal the obligatory makeover, complete with montage. Cal gets a new haircut, new clothes, and new shoes. Still far from suave, Cal lingers in the background at the bar, carefully watching Jacob as he pursues a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hot, available, willing women (never the same woman twice), clinching each pick-up with a prosaic, but surprisingly effective line, “Let’s get out of here.” Jacob’s smooth talking ways and charms fail, however, to impress the always-playing-it-safe Hannah (Emma Stone), a recent law school graduate eager to join her law firm as a permanent associate and receive a marriage proposal from another attorney, Richard (Josh Groban).
Crazy, Stupid, Love repeatedly returns to a hoary, tiresome romantic cliché: the “soul mate.” Everyone apparently has one, at least on film or, more accurately, at least in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Richard represents one romantic comedy cliché, the boyfriend or potential mate who’s far from ideal, lacking grace, charm, a sense of humor, and most importantly, the looks and chiseled physique the obviously narcissistic Jacob possesses in abundance. Richard also represents the easily overcome obstacle to personal and, presumably, sexual fulfillment. Hannah just has to look past Jacob’s shallow, womanizing personality to the wounded, emotionally vulnerable (and open) lover only she can uncover via a night of soulful whispers exchanged over multiple glasses of wine in and around Jacob’s expensive sheets and pillows.
A third storyline centers on Robbie and the family’s 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), the daughter of Cal and Emily’s friends, Bernie (John Carroll Lynch) and Claire (Beth Littleford). Jessica, however, only has lustful eyes for the broken-hearted, forty-something Cal. Jessica concocts a foolhardy plan to seduce Cal that curiously involves analog technology (Jessica should be all about the digital). Cal, of course, begins to have second doubts about the single life (that whole “soul mate” thing comes back again and again [and again]). The three storylines eventually converge in a farcical scene that seemingly comes out of nowhere (because, actually it does). Crazy, Stupid, Love, however, goes on (and on) for another fifteen minutes as Fogelman’s script meanders through the obligatory public airing of private matters and the obligatory reaffirmation of heterosexual monogamy as a bright, shining ideal, as the pinnacle of romantic relationships.As true as that might be (well, the monogamy part, if not the heterosexual part), Emily’s relative shallowness as a character, Jacob’s unconvincing conversion into a one-woman man, the depiction of secondary female characters, especially Jacob and Cal’s “dates,” as disposable and/or interchangeable, and the introduction of Hannah’s father as possessive and controlling after he meets Jacob, "Crazy, Stupid, Love" fails on one too many levels to be considered the “adult” antidote to the summer’s (young) male-oriented blockbusters. "Crazy, Stupid, Love" also wastes top-tier talent, including a seriously underused Marisa Tomei as Cal’s quickly forgotten first conquest, in the never-ending effort to appeal to presumably undemanding mainstream audiences. Mainstream audiences, however, deserve more than what "Crazy, Stupid, Love" has to offer.
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originally posted: 07/30/11 16:01:13