A middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a new found friend, Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars.
Director: Glen Ficarra
Typecasting and formulaic film scripts are the most common occurrences in Hollywood. How many times have we seen: the female make-over story? love stories with straight-forward, one-sided occurrences, outcomes, and themes? Steve Carell play a 40-something sad-sack? Ryan Gosling as just a pretty face? The short answer: a ton of times. Another Hollywood production that features most all of those is Crazy, Stupid, Love. But it also features more. A lot more. It takes these commonalities, ideas, themes, and typecasts, and shatters them as the film develops into a new, refreshing take on many different fronts. And that is why it is one of my favorite movies ever, for its laughs, its themes, its style, its writing, and because after six or more viewings so far, I have not come close to tiring of it.
The story starts with a perfect Carell character: Cal Weaver. A little bit of The Office‘s Michael Scott and a little bit of 40 Year Old Virgin‘s Andy; a socially inept forty something adult, this time married with kids, but still pretty oblivious to the dating/female world with a mundane, run-of-the-mill life. He is completely misplaced in this hot new era advanced culture, with everyone dressing in sharp new clothes. As the film opens, the camera cuts from table to table in a fancy restaurant, every guy wearing $300 shoes and all the girls playing “footsie”. And then we cut to… this:
Not surprisingly, Emily tells Cal she wants a divorce. Cal’s response is nothing. Literally. He turns a cold shoulder and refuses to converse with his wife about the bomb she just dropped, how she feels, how he feels, or even about her sleeping with another man. He is so against talking about their problems that he even jumps out of their moving car to avoid the conversation. He then tells Emily that he’ll leave that very night.
The divorce blows Cal’s life to pieces. He moves out of his house; which he cares for and tends to pretty particularly, he loses his best friend Bernie [Lynch] after Bernie’s wife demands that they pick Emily as the friend they keep; and he finds himself sitting at the bar drinking vodka cranberry’s most nights, struggling to talk to or connect with anyone. But someone has noticed his struggles, seems to sympathize, and even offers to help Cal find his man-hood, which he has undoubtedly lost. Who is this brave man who wants to help do the impossible? Well, it is in-fact God himself: Ryan Gosling.
Gosling plays Jacob Palmer, and he is shown to us a deity and typecast character: he dresses better and looks better than any other guy, he picks up any girl he wants to from the club, he’s witty and funny. His ridiculous physique is on display whenever possible [C’mon, it’s like he’s photoshopped]. This is what every guy wants to be. He has a bunch of bad-ass alpha male quotes like “The war between the sexes if over. We won. Okay? We won the second women started doing pole dances for exercise.” He is like our generation’s Don Draper [he is fond of Old Fasioned’s] I mean, who can look like this while eating pizza:
He is the polar opposite of Cal, and he becomes his Master. He will teach Cal his ways of man-hood. This means: buying a completely new wardrobe, teaching him how to interact with women, and how to live like an attractive, successful bachelor. His methods are a little rough, like throwing Cal’s 407’s off the mall balcony, shooting down everything Cal says, and even a little physical abuse in the form of frequent slapping. He then takes Cal to the bars and has him watch how he works. Cal struggles for a long while, but he eventually pulls in a hot, frisky teacher named Kate [Tomei] after Jacob “Miyagi”‘s him. But this lifestyle isn’t necessarily the answer to anyone’s problems. As Cal’s son Robbie [Bobo] puts it to Emily: “I can tell that he’s sad, even though he looks better. I can tell that he’s not happy, you know?”. But more on that later.
Cal and Emily’s relationship is not the only one of focus in the film. Robbie is overcome with the kind of love and affection for his babysitter Jessica [Tipton] that only a thirteen year old can manage, and Jessica has developed a crush on Cal. They both attempt some pretty daring moves to get the attention of their crushes, and is the basis for a lot of comedy. Also sharing the screen is the lovely Emma Stone as Hannah, a future lawyer with a hilarious best friend [Lapira] who acts as a Devil’s Advocate and a voice of reason in Hannah’s also mundane life. Until she meets Jacob, just as Cal did, after her boyfriend [Groban] fails to give her what she wants. Groban, in his feature film debut, is just hilarious, and his character is great.
In fact, all of the characters in this film are great. They are all real people that we’ve all met and/or know, and they all either have multiple layers of development or else are just wickedly funny. The casting is spot on, and the dialogue/writing all pair together to give one of my favorite ensemble performances.
As I was saying before, being an attractive male capable of taking women home every night is not what anyone really wants in this film. Your typical “make-over” and “comeback” story end here, and the better story takes over. One that really tries to tackle the idea of “love” and “soul-mates”. Jacob meets Hannah and becomes more of a “settle down” type of guy; Hannah ditches her long time “settle for” boyfriend to go for what she thinks is going to be a one night stand with the hot guy from the bar, Jacob [their “one night stand” is hilarious]; Cal can’t move on in his life by sleeping with other women, even when he accidentally “shows off” to his wife. Peppered throughout the make-over act are reminders that Cal and Emily are in the midst of a divorce, and they are both struggling with it and worried about and missing each other. No matter how well Cal seems to be coming along, you are always reminded that divorce is a struggle. It is just a really good piece of writing that creatively uses typecasts and usually typical story arcs to present this romance drama. It is so good that I can listen to every line of dialogue and watch every scene and find it necessary and important to the story as a whole. There is no wasted time or resources, unless they go a little out of the way for comedy’s sake, which they always strike gold on. The comedy shines in this film just as well as the story. There is a mass appeal in the jokes in this film, things that everyone can laugh at. OH! And the little twist/surprise they throw in near the end, which is a tiny bit predictable if you pay attention, really adds a fun cherry on top of it all.
When you leave the film, you have the feeling that you just witnessed a really smart, unique romance film, but you are also left with the countless memorable images and quotes that will cause you to giggle just by thinking of them. Oh, and then there’s the really long, really good soundtrack that makes a great Spotify playlist that you can listen to whenever.
I just can’t find a single bad thing to say about this movie. And I could write so, so much more, even breaking down every scene and directive/writing decision and why I like it. It has to be in my top 10 films of all time, and is one of the easiest films to like that I have ever seen.
4/4 – With an interesting play on typecasts and typical story arcs, Crazy, Stupid Love. is a truly hilarious, smart, and unique rom-com that is remarkably easy to enjoy, both in its perspectives on love, romance, and soul-mates, and its montage-worthy comedic images, scenes, and dialogue.