Crazy, Stupid, Love,
directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
(Warner, 2011)

From a simple opening shot of footwear, Crazy, Stupid, Love tells us everything about a couple's abysmal marriage before we even know their names. In a ritzy restaurant, past rows of glossy stilettos cozying up to expensive business suits, the camera pans to bleached tennis sneakers across from fashionable work heels. Right then and there the pair decides to get a divorce over an order of creme brulee.

Writer Dan Fogelman has created a cunning romantic comedy that thrives on character connections and misunderstandings while directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa remind us that the use of slow-motion is always funny.

In addition to the unfortunate couple named Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), practically every character in this film has romantic predicaments: from 13-year-old Robbie (Jonah Bobo) in love with his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) -- who is in turn un love with his dad, Cal -- to Emily's smitten but utterly boring co-worker named David (Kevin Bacon) to the innocent Hannah (Emma Stone) who, after a disappointment in her PG love life, shows up at the local swanky bar for a one-night-stand with the token "hot guy" who struts around the film in slow-mo to his own music.

And who is this "hot guy"?

He's the sexy, smooth playboy named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who becomes Cal's unexpected guide to winning his wife back and fixing his marriage. (How a playboy knows how to fix a marriage will forever be one of those romcom enigmas.)

But even with the tangled and twisted connections in the film -- which create some of the funniest, chaotic scenes akin to classic screwball comedies -- clothing is a wicked tool for laughs, too.

Jacob's wardrobe rivals his comedic one-liners ("You see the problem is that your head has the proportions of, like, a Styrofoam peanut.") Decked out with gold chains, '90s pop-star highlights and gigantic rings, Jacob looks like a svelt small-time mobster from New Jersey. It completely subverts the hunk factor advertised in the film's trailers.

Unlike so many films of this genre Crazy, Stupid, Love recognizes how artificial and borderline unlikable its characters are. Unlike the old comedies of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, the problems of the upper-middle-class and rich are difficult for audiences to sympathize or laugh at during this day and age. So, the film commits to the purely surface-based elements of comedy. Gosling's wealthy character is clad in heinous clothing, and Carell's character is forced through numerous cliches -- he is even left heartbroken in the rain uttering "what a cliche."

To the disappointment of some viewers, Fogelman's awareness of his character's shallow natures caused him to be stingy with their development. The bewildering metamorphoses of some of the characters doesn't ruin the experience, but it might leave you with a few lingering question marks as you leave the theater.

review by
Molly Ebert

21 January 2012

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