Contributing Writer: Esther Patterson
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is based heavy on unhappy lovers and little on comedy.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love” could have been better off as a straight drama rather than the romantic comedy it has been advertised as. Its best moments have little to do with moving along the plot, but with the intimacies between partners.
It truly is a beautiful movie to watch while Emily (Julianne Moore) calls Cal and fakes some needed home repair information, just to hear his voice again. Without being too much of a movie spoiler, you’ll also love watching a (shirtless) Gosling show Stone’s character his massage chair. That is not a euphemism. Without these reminders of how and why people fall in love, it’s easy to think that “Crazy, Stupid, Love” does a tame job of exposing marital and romantic unhappiness.
One needs look no further than Todd Solondz “Happiness” to find the untamed versions of these characters. Solondz’s film, though, is a brutal, black comedy with characters who end up much worse off in the process of following their hearts. To fault “Crazy, Stupid, Love” for not being as raucous as “Happiness” dismisses far too much good in the performances by the lead actors, especially Steve Carell’s knack for turning a miserable shmuck into a less miserable shmuck.
It is telling that in a star-studded romantic comedy, the two female leads (Julianne Moore and Emma Stone) wear such little makeup, while the males (Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling) attend to every detail of their appearance.
For Cal (Carell’s character), it takes an impending divorce to turn him into the Eliza Doolittle who dapper Jacob (Gosling) takes pity. The movie could have easily been titled “My Fair Carell”, where homely Cal learns from Jacob how to dress and act in order to impress ladies who he would like to sleep with in order get back at his ex-wife for cheating on him. Of course, the important lesson that is learned is that appearances cannot remedy the love-sickness of spirit.
Carell’s tragically-awkward style of comedic acting is finely tuned in the role of Cal. He has done with his career what that Focker Ben Stiller could never do: make his moments of schaudenfreude incredibly sad, funny, horrifying, and touching, all without ever breaking character.
Cal’s personal journey is one to watch, because, though he follows the motions of a romantic comedy and betters his outward appearance, he develops a personal sense of grace, in that he does not handle disgraceful situations through reactionary behavior.
I can’t think of any famous comedian, recently, who has had to undergo a leading role with such a drastic change in his empathy towards others. Maybe “Funny People”, but usually, the Happy-Madison formula is that the comedian ends up a better person in order to get exactly what he wants.
Carell and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” are smarter than that because they are in a story that has to happen after the happily ever after of most love stories.