Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) – starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore – is an enjoyable, if flawed, US rom-com. Its multi-strand focus upon teenage obsession, twenty somethings dating, and a middle-aged couple trying to save their marriage is clearly meant to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Your average Mr. Nice Guy, Cal Weaver (Carell), is devastated when his wife Emily (Moore) tells him over dinner she’s had an affair and that their marriage of twenty-five years is over.
Cal moves out and begins to hang out at a local bar, drowning his sorrows and bemoaning his lot out loud, until he is picked up by smooth-talking, sharply-dressed Jacob Palmer (Gosling). Jacob decides to take Cal under his wing and help him live a little. First, he accompanies Cal shopping to give him a makeover and then he demonstrates how to pull women – the golden rule, according to Jacob, is “never talk about yourself”.
Cal finally hits it off with Marisa Tomei’s ex-alcoholic schoolteacher and goes on to bed a further eight women. Despite his newly discovered prowess, he still carries a torch for Emily – this love is beautifully expressed in his regular nocturnal visits to tend his wife’s garden.
Emily begins to tentatively date her colleague, boring accountant David Lindhagen (a great cameo from Kevin Bacon), the one-night-stand that caused her marriage break-up. Jacob, meanwhile, meets his match when he gets it together with feisty lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone). To complicate matters, Cal and Emily’s 13-year old son is obsessing about his 17-year old babysitter, who secretly harbours a crush on Cal.
There are a few too many clichés and predictable plot strands in Dan Fogelman’s script to view Crazy, Stupid, Love as a true cut above the rom-com pack. However, co-directors Ficarra and Requa ensure there is enough smart humour to keep both teenage and adult audiences engaged – helped by Andrew Dunn’s slick cinematography. There are some lovely touches, including Cal’s embittered outbursts and his son’s relentless pursuit of the babysitter, to offset some of the film’s cornier moments, such as father and son’s mutual belief in ‘soulmates’ and Jacob’s wooing of Hannah.
It’s a great ensemble, and the perfect vehicle for Carell (who also co-produces). Most of the performances are top notch (Gosling was nominated for a Golden Globe), although Tomei’s high-octane performance, after a frenzied night of passion with Cal, strikes a false note. Warm, bittersweet and wearing its heart on its sleeve, Crazy, Stupid, Love should win over most.