Crazy, Stupid, Love does not dawdle in introducing its primary conflict: Emily (Julianne Moore) announces that she wants to divorce Cal (Steve Carell, away from his natural Office habitat) while the couple of 25 years is having an unromantic date, but she soon confides that she has been with another man (Kevin Bacon). Cal is far too stunned to react properly, and impulsively jumps out of a moving car. He enters a local bar that he has passed numerous times, and he notices Jacob (Ryan Gosling, whose abs are indeed real), an overt flirt and expert ladies’ man who fawns over the Hannah (Emma Stone, lovely and charming), although Hannah is about to graduate from law school and is not intimidated or tempted by Jacob’s come-ons.
Meanwhile, Cal and Emily’s son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo, embodying a hopelessly-in-love adolescent convincingly), is certain that his babysitter (former America’s Next Top Model contestant Analeigh Tipton) is his soul mate, and in a creatively romantic gesture, Robbie utilizes The Scarlet Letter to profess his undying love for her. To complicate matters, the equally naïve Hannah has developed intense feelings for Cal, who remains inherently oblivious. Jacob makes it his mission to pass on his advanced knowledge of attracting female attention to the social inept yet eager Cal, whose seemingly feigned debonair does just that.
The first half of the movie is a brilliantly executed, unconventional romantic comedy that sidesteps hackneyed clichés in the genre. The issues that the principal characters experience are not tin-pot; divorce, infidelity, and intense feelings of love are seen in the real world. However, the pacing and ending falters considerably in the second half, as screenwriter Dan Fogelman admittedly allowed the cast to improvise, and the film as a whole feels needlessly long.
Much of the ad-libbed dialogue is extraneous, as subtlety is often the key creating convincing relationships. All the sub-plots appear to come together too easily, too sweetly, and too crazily, culminating in a ridiculous sequence that proves how love truly is “crazy” and “stupid.” Nevertheless, the length is perhaps beneficial in creating relatable, distinguishable characters, as a shorter film with numerous characters and sub-plots may have suffered from lack of information regarding characters’ personalities.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the few romantic comedies that succeeds in mixing dramatic elements with comical situations, despite them occasionally feeling forced and extortionate, as is the case with Marisa Tomei as the neurotically annoying first woman who enters Cal’s bedroom post-divorce. The reasoning behind Jacob’s eagerness to aid Cal in his endeavors is unknown, but it is undeniably amusing to watch Jacob attempt to teach Cal, as a tyro, to woo toothsome women.
As previously noted, Carell surprisingly shines in a role that enables him to make visible his dramatic acting abilities, even though Cal is overtly similar to Carell’s clueless schmuck in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Interestingly, Carell is best known for his comedic roles, and Gosling is best known for his dramatic roles (he was nominated for an Oscar for 2006’s Half Nelson), and Gosling excels as well in this role reversal as does Carell.
Gosling, in his crisp suits and sharp shades, is rather becoming as a stereotypical ladies’ man, who inevitably undergoes an abrupt yet believable transformation. He spurts out one-liners easily, and his chemistry with rising star Stone (whose talents are not utilized nearly enough) is believable and vibrant. Tipton inhabits the part of an enamored teen satisfactorily, although her expressions throughout are essentially the same, so perhaps she is more suited to the modeling world. As the inadvertently annihilative wife, Julianne Moore is fitting, although her despair often seems off-balance from the intended comedy of particular scenes, as her eyes were watering more than seemed appropriate.