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.