August 1, 2011

Review: Funny, Smart, Good – 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'

They don't make movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love much anymore. It's quite good. As an adult drama and romantic comedy, the film manages to create relatable characters with interesting arcs, dynamic qualities, and explore difficult relationship problems. The film veers of course just enough to be laugh out loud funny, ridiculous, and charming. The premise holds true: Love is indeed crazy and stupid, but more importantly, funny.

The comedy centers on several interconnected relationships. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore's characters separate from 25 years of marriage in the opening scene, setting off a series of comedic premises involving romantic ties. Carell is devastated and is brought under the wing of serial pick up artist Ryan Gosling. The chemistry between the two is superb and grounds the film with a smart, enjoyably pleasant tone.

Gosling shines in his first comedic role of memory. He plays a womanizing cad too a tee, but never becomes a stereotype. It doesn't hurt that Gosling is very attractive and has a magnetic personality on screen, but he brings depth, understanding, and nuance to his character. He is a treat to watch on screen. Despite all this womanizing he never feels like an empty, vapid personality.

There are multiple love stories connected to each other in the vein of Love Actually and Valentine's Day on a much smaller, tolerable level. None of the these stories feel too forced or boring. Love is difficult and comes with much baggage and the film explores this admirably balancing a fun, but serious mood.

The young actors are fine, particularly Carell's son played by Jonah Boo and the 17-year-old babysitter Analeigh Tipton. Their love stories feel seamless in the integration between the adults. Everyone is connected and it doesn't feel cheap. Usually, rom-com plotlines are easily spotted a mile away, but Crazy, Stupid, Love offers a few welcomed surprises.

The sharp direction, writing, and acting underscored by some great casting with Emma Stone (Easy A), Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon brings the momentous elements of the comedy together in a very appealing way. However, Crazy, Stupid, Love is limited by its high ambition. The relationship between Gosling and Stone's characters are relegated to the third act amidst a narrative twist that settles the plot.

With so many relationship dynamics to difficultly balance, the pace suffers in the latter half. I felt the momentum dragged with a running time a tad long in order to wrap up all the plotines. Furthermore, the climatic resolution ending scene is serviceable, but felt all too standard and slightly out of place in this quirky picture.

Ultimately, Crazy, Stupid, Love largely succeeds with small moments and details about the complications of marriage, falling in and out of love, and navigating difficult human relationships. The film stands on its fine acting and execution of direction from its sharp script. Most scenes are worth watching alone for the well crafted character interactions and deft comedic action.

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