Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

By Stephen Rebello

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The directing duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa strike gold with this romantic comedy.


Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa Rating: PG-13 Studio: Carousel Productions

Considering the toxic state to which the genre has devolved, no wonder hearing the very words “romantic comedy” can be blood-freezing. Yeah, we’re calling you out The Back-Up Plan, The Ugly Truth, Rumor Has It, Bride Wars, The Wedding Planner, Good Luck Chuck, 27 Dresses and your endless hellspawn. But sailing right over this sea of comedy sludge, ghastly casting and prehistoric sexual politics is Crazy, Stupid, Love—unpredictable, richly detailed, terrifically acted, biting and funny as hell.

Steve Carell plays the high school sweetheart and longtime husband of Julianne Moore, who announces one night at dinner that she wants a divorce and that she’s slept with someone else. Reeling, the monogamous, dweeby, Supercuts-groomed Carell hurls himself into the shark tank of upscale singles bars and one-nighters with the likes of sexy, p.o.’d, AA-attending schoolteacher Marisa Tomei. Carell sticks out as such a loser in the club scene that he gets taken on as a pity project by Ryan Gosling, an acid-tongued, perfectly groomed, thoroughly phony babe-magnet. It turns out there’s more to Gosling than meets the eye, though, because he has a thing for sharp-witted, hotshot new law school grad Emma Stone, who constantly busts him for being an empty designer suit but who prefers his washboard abs to the wishy-washy attentions of her dullard boss, played by Josh Groban. Then there’s Moore’s and Carell’s 13-year-old son (Jonah Bobo) who’s obsessed with his 17-year-old “soul mate” babysitter (Analeigh Tipton, terrific) who, in turn, is obsessed with Carell, who wants to avenge himself on Moore's smitten coworker Kevin Bacon who…well you get the idea.

The weaving-together of these various characters and their plot strands takes its sweet time but, in the end, it is a thing of beauty and pure pleasure. In fact, the movie is a kind of La Ronde set against the landscape of social networking where a bunch of aching characters constantly text and sext because they're not doing all that much actual connecting.  Crazy, Stupid, Love rides on a sharp, meandering but satisfying screenplay by Dan Fogelman (Cars, Tangled) that entertainingly demonstrates how low concept can, in the hands of experts, yield high pleasure. Directed by Glen Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) and acted by a cast that swings for the fences, the movie at its best recalls About a Boy, Jerry Maguire and peak James L. Brooks.

Of all the movie’s surprises, though, it’s the performance of Gosling that sticks. After exemplary work in so many indies, the actor steps it up to something sharp as nails and surprisingly openhearted—a flat-out brilliant, doesn't-miss-a-trick comic turn that has movie star written all over it. He and the wonderful Stone generate so much zingy chemistry together that you almost resent it when the movie’s multiple plot strands pull the focus away from them. Even if you find yourself wishing the movie's conclusions were tougher and less conventional, as crowd-pleasers go, this one’s pretty much state of the art. Just do yourself a favor and see it before everyone starts spoiling all the good stuff.

About the Author

Playboy Contributing Editor Stephen Rebello has written many Playboy Interview and 20 Questions features. He is the author of such books as the notorious Bad Movies We Love (with Edward Margulies) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the latter of which has inspired a dramatic feature film set for production in 2012. His most recent Playboy Interviews include Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz.


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