The power of love is a curious thing. It’s been the subject of so many films that it leaves little hope for us poor susceptible humans in distinguishing movie love from the real thing. For directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa it’s a familiar subject, having just come off the critically acclaimed I Love You Phillip Morris, but having also explored different kinds of camaraderie in their scripts for Bad Santa, Bad News Bears and even their earliest feature script, Cats & Dogs.
With Crazy Stupid Love, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell, Dinner for Schmucks) is on the verge of divorce with his wife (Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right) after decades of marriage, and doesn’t quite know how to deal with the situation. Eventually, he chooses to try and get over her with the help of ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling, Drive), a smooth-talking night-club denizen who thinks that he has got women all figured out until he meets Hannah (Emma Stone, The Help).
Dan Fogelman’s (Bolt, Tangled) script treads very close to being a standard rom-com on the surface, something that we see several times a year. Yet the screenplay, the first that Ficarra and Requa have directed and not written themselves, immediately distinguishes itself when the lead character jumps out of a moving car in the second scene, unable to deal with the situation emotionally. It shouldn’t be a surprise, however, from a creative team that has taught us to expect the unexpected, and certainly Ficarra and Requa’s script to Bad Santa never softened its world view one iota. Despite having dealt largely with family-oriented fare, Fogelman shows an innate understanding of his usual target audience: the average, and often broken, family unit. Crazy Stupid Love may be occasionally exaggerated, but it is an frank portrayal of love cracked open so we can examine its core.
The strength of the unconventional script has attracted a strong calibre of actor to the film, with Carell believing in the project enough to produce it as well. Carell brings a performance unlike any other in his career, restraining his often dysfunctional character archetype into a person that doesn’t know he is in a comedy, and reacts all the more honestly for it. Cal Weaver is often as tragic as he is hilarious, and serves as a perfect balance to the shark-like Ryan Gosling, a figure who is the complete flip side of the coin to Carell’s. Recalling aspects of his Blue Valentine performance, the scenes in which he falls in love with Emma Stone’s Hannah are both touching and genuine. Julianne Moore, is a uncharacteristically clothed performance, is the catalyst for Carell’s spiral but never the villain. Even Kevin Bacon’s inclusion, someone who could have easily been the bad guy, is floundering just as much as the rest of Fogelman’s world.
Crazy Stupid Love is disarmingly funny, if not outright riotous, because it often hits so close to the bone. It is about the beginnings of love and the end, it is about forbidden love, teenage love and even the love between two close friends brought together by an odd situation. There will be moments when you will cringe, particularly as the young Robbie (Jonah Bobo, Choke) professes his love to the older Jessica (Analeigh Tipton, The Green Hornet) in front of the assembled school yard. It’s crazy, it’s stupid, but we’ve all been there, and its that mad stupidity that keens this big blue marble we call home spinning.
Crazy Stupid Love is released in Australia on 29 September 2011 from Roadshow Films.