Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Smurfs”:

If this town “ain’t smurfin’ big enough for the three of ya”, the romantic dramedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” gets my vote for charming its way to the top at the box office. I have so been lulled into expecting romcoms to be written badly, start flagging in the second half, or trash up the screen or cater to lowbrow humor, I found myself waiting for a disappointment that never came. Hurray for us film lovers! We have a movie lots will likely consider the best comedy of the summer, if not the year.

With a varied cast that plays their roles to perfection, a script by Dan Fogelman that stays consistently very funny and painfully real, and direction by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa that deftly balances the action with sweet and bittersweet little moments, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” offers a warm slightly risque mix of screwball and poignant, and leads you to form attachments to the characters you will retain far after the last credits roll.

The story centers around Steve Carell’s Cal Weaver, who has apathetically rolled himself to the curb after his wife and high school sweetheart (Julianne Moore) asks for a divorce and informs him she has slept with a work colleague. He attempts to join the singles world by becoming the local hipster club’s resident sad sack. King of said club, Lady’s man, and Devil in Tom Ford Jacob Palmer, played by a testosteriffic Ryan Gosling, sporting a deep tan and 6 pack abs, takes pity on him and pulls a Pygmalion on him. “Be better than the Gap”, he says, as he drains Cal’s wallet and transforms his clothes and club demeanor. Meanwhile, “PG13-rated” hottie Hannah, played by hot in Hollywood ingenue Emma Stone, denies Jacob, piquing his interest and driving him to his own potential transformation.

Cal’s son has a burning torch for the babysitter, who unbeknownst to Cal has her own crush on him. Julianne Moore’s Emily Weaver attempts a relationship with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), the office dalliance and homewrecker. Cal starts fielding his wild oats in unfortunate ways, one of which involves the hilarious scene stealing Marisa Tomei, shining in her short screen time as one night stand Kate. All these subplots come together later into a hot mess that requires untangling.

The story only really works if you have sympathy and compassion for both the emotionally paralyzed Cal and underappreciated Emily, and you see the depth and kindness haphazardly stifled in Ryan Gosling’s commitment phobic sexhound, Jacob. It is a testament to both the script and Gosling’s talent that his character’s emotional arc is believable. It is difficult to see change in any character over the length of only one film, but in this movie all the leads do so in ways we as viewers can follow and understand.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is that rare find, a comedy with romance that guys as much as girls can enjoy. As Steve Carrell plays an everyman older marrieds can relate to, they will empathize with his anxiety and cluelessness at being newly single, as well as his every misstep and success. Younger men still playing the field will recognize Ryan Gosling’s character in at least one of their wingmen, (god help them if they aspire to his prowess) and women of all ages will likely swoon at good guy Cal or bad boy Jacob, or both, and see fragments of themselves in all the female roles.

At one point a gal sitting next to me actually spoke to the screen, “Oh, girl, we’ve all been there!”

That kind of connection is what makes this movie so enjoyably watchable.

When a movie can make you forget it’s 100 degrees outside, and give you a place to hang out with your lover or best friend, or both, it earns the right to be the box office winner. That’s not crazy or stupid. That’s the best reason why we keep going to the movies.