Can Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone make a rom-com work? Guess.
While I absolutely love the sound of my own voice in digital print, I implore you not to read a single review (including this one, just stop reading now), and just trust that Crazy Stupid Love is as wonderful and worthwhile as a rom-com can get.
If you're still reading, welcome. Crazy Stupid Love is a new kind of rom-com. It's actually funny, first of all. It rarely strains credulity. And while its destination isn't much of a surprise, it takes byways, rural routes and all manner of side streets to get you there. The film stars Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone, and features strong supporting performances from Kevin Bacon and the ageless Marisa Tomei. Gosling, Canada's best actor, plays a caddish alpha (or an alpha-ish cad) who believes a man should insist on what he wants rather than take what's there. Steve Carrell plays, well, a Steve Carell character, but he has managed to hone his nuanced, kind-hearted everyman to a razor-sharp point. The two leading ladies turn in fine performances but get a little lost in the shuffle. Emma Stone plays slightly awkward, hyper and self-aware as well as anyone. And Julianne Moore covers "I don't know what I really want from this life" as well as any woman in Hollywood with the possible exception of Kate Winslet (please check out all but the last 20 minutes of The Kids Are Alright for definitive evidence).
The story follows a couple (Carell and Moore) in the midst of a midlife crisis-spawned split. Smash cut to Carell attempting to get his mojo back under the tutelage of the rakish Gosling, with the requisite montage of makeovers and pickups. Moore flagellates herself throughout the film almost in an attempt to prevent outward criticism. And Stone's character fights through a quarter-life crisis that could almost be described as "How Hanna Got Her Groove In The First Place" with the help of Liza Lapira's adorable Svengali. Needless to say, there are as many misunderstandings as there are on a season of Three's Company, and a number of other rom-com standbys are firmly tread upon (like the wise-beyond-his-years pre-teen, the wrong person showing up at the wrong time, and a few cases of puppy love run amok). Despite the genre's confines, they make a film that is complete, enjoyable, barely insults our intelligence and isn't so saccharine that it'll melt in the rain. Frankly, if Ryan Gosling decided to focus all of his future work on this realm, he could put Matthew McConaughey, APlusK and the Brothers Wilson out of business. But enough gushing before I go blind.
Is this a date movie? The answer is an emphatic yes, with a single caveat: You may want to avoid seeing it early on in a relationship. While it never hits anything that approaches Sean Penn-esque in its intensity, it's impossible not to examine past relationships and come away with a sense of, "Shucks, we could have saved that sinking ship." Not a great feeling for a first date with someone new.
Let's put it through my four factors of a date movie:
1) Is it romantic? Yes. Love conquers all. All you need is love. Love love love. Ouch, my teeth hurt.
2) Is it endearing? Do you like the characters and hope they succeed? Sure enough. And the few romantic gambits that are destined for failure, you applaud anyway and just hope they end quickly so that the character you've grown to like so much can avoid perpetual humiliation.
3) Is it entertaining? I looked at my watch once during the movie, but it was mostly because I knew I had to be at work in seven hours and was thinking about what late-night dinner I'd like to have delivered to my home.
4) Is it funny? Yep. Carell's awkward charm and Gosling's cocksure charisma make a heck of a combo. Loop in Moore's casual, self-deprecating vulnerability and Stone's timing with some great physical comedy from Tomei and spunky wingwomanism from Lapira, and you have yourself a solid handful of lol-lercoasters.
Bottom line: highly endorseable as a date movie. A few twists and turns will probably make you want to avoid making out too much during the late parts of the film. But don't worry if your date doesn't have the abs of Ryan Gosling: No one does.
Are you excited to see Crazy Stupid Love?