Jul 31, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Much better than Eat, Pray, Love. Or at least more genuine. This movie by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the more bracing I Love You Phillip Morris) is fun and entertaining and has some game performers in it, but in the end I found it unsatisfying. A movie about the complications of wilting, unrequited, budding, painful, and/or loveless love, it starts out by looking into several characters and their love problems, but by the third act it becomes so conventional and contrived it seems to contradict its own thesis. You can't spend most of a movie saying that love is complicated, that love comes and goes, that it hurts so much it is "for assholes", and then give the audience the usual theory of "the one" and the "soulmate" (a concept I loathe). It's sweet, but a total letdown. It's also untrue. Some people are lucky to think they found "the one", others are content with being with the closest thing to "the one" they'll ever find, others think they've found "the one" and then are disappointed when it becomes "the none". This movie is fun as long as it shows how hard love is. Divorce is horrible, unrequited love is painful, fear of loving is the pits. But its treacly, over-staged, ridiculous ending does it a huge disservice, and Ficarra and Glenn, who are capable of great mischief -- these are the pair who wrote Bad Santa -- seem oddly restrained by all the well-meaning romance.
Steve Carrell does his usual effective turn as a clueless everyman who is kind of bland, passive aggressive and deeply wounded by his impeding divorce. He's funny and affecting. There were hordes of women at last night's show and they all let out a collective gasp of awe and wonder when Ryan Gosling took his shirt off. There is a bedroom scene in which the camera makes love to his torso, a nice change from the usual fixations of the male gaze. Gosling, excellent actor that he is, plays his lothario character straight and makes him totally believable. A bit of a cad, but a charming one at that. Of course every woman that lays eyes on him is going to follow him home (get in line).
Of the women in this movie, the one who impressed me the most is the lovely and funny Analeigh Tipton, whose teenage love pangs for Carrell are both funny, embarrassing and very touching. She does the flustered adolescent really well. Emma Stone is the closest we have today to a Rosalind Russell type, a smart firecracker. I just wish she had the confidence to mug a little less. She has a beautiful, expressive face, no need to scrunch it at all times. Julianne Moore brings her quasi-hysteric touch to Carrell's ex-wife. She's pretty good, but maybe someone less high-strung would have been better. Marisa Tomei is good, but rather broad, in her role as a recovering alcoholic teacher and jilted woman. In general, the gals seem to be working much harder than the guys.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is sharper, and more realistic than most Hollywood romantic comedies nowadays, but this bar has been set very low for ages.

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