Monday, August 1, 2011

The Big Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Patronizing, simply-minded, unbearable.

This review previously appeared in "ICON" and is reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)

What a waste. That's all that came to mind after finishing the star-studded unraveling that is Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's Crazy, Stupid, Love. What a waste of talent. What a waste of a promising story. You watch with your mouth agape and your intelligence insulted as good performers sink deeper and deeper into sitcomish misunderstandings and life-affirming speeches disguised as dialogue. No one surfaces.

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play Cal and Emily Weaver, high school sweethearts turned longtime married couple. Now in their forties, things have grown stale. He's become immune to the boredom; Emily not so much. As they prepare to order dessert, she requests a divorce. On the drive home from the restaurant, Emily admits to having an affair with a co-worker. Cal responds by exiting the car—as it's moving.

Sweet and meek, Cal moves out and settles into the sad caricature of middle-aged single life: shabby condo, baggy clothes, and a nighttime visit to the local bar, where he bitches and moans about being a cuckold. Cal's vocal self-loathing draws the attention of the establishment's lothario, Jacob (Ryan Gosling). The young man takes pity on Cal, remaking him in his sharply dressed ("Be better than The Gap."), bed-hopping image. It works, only Cal still considers Emily his soul mate, and no amount of nighttime frolicking with nubile playthings can convince him otherwise. Emily misses Cal, but can't get over his new lifestyle, an odd stance for an admitted adulterer.

This is where the movie begins its steep, fatal decline. Cal's forgiveness and Emily's galling hypocrisy can't be overlooked just because they're made for each other. But that's exactly what writer Dan Fogelman (Fred Claus, Cars 2) believes. He doesn't illuminate Cal and Emily's history together, and he certainly doesn't reveal the difficulties in sustaining a long-term relationship. Instead, love will save the day for all! Jake falls for an attractive aspiring lawyer (Emma Stone) who cuts through his ladykiller fa├žade when only their souls are bared during a late-night rendezvous. We must endure a profoundly stupid series of scenes involving Cal and Emily's eighth-grade son (Jonah Bobo) and his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), starting with her walking in on him as he masturbates.

The boy is so in love with her that he publicly states his affection in front of the whole school and shares his feelings on the school's front billboard. Such acts would require a stern lecture from the parents or a visit to the school psychologist; instead, the little creep is painted as a fearless romantic. The older woman, if you want to call a high school senior that, is infatuated with Cal but can't get the words out. Then there's Kevin Bacon, looking lost, as Emily's office paramour. Marisa Tomei, in a scorned-women-are-crazy role more fit for Jerry Springer, embarrasses herself as Cal's first conquest. Snoozy crooner Josh Groban shows up as Stone's "human valium" boyfriend. He fares best. That's not good.

Last year's playful, brainless Valentine's Day glamorized the shallow holiday among a group of attractive Los Angelinos, an approach that Crazy, Stupid, Love. adapts to fragile, damaged souls. This isn't misery romantic? move defies logic, and paints Cal and Emily as soulless pawns, easily answered questions. The couple's problems get buried underneath a pile of pat explanations—Emily wants a divorce because "we haven't been us for a long time"—and distractions: obnoxiously wise 13-year-olds, Gosling's sculpted abs, and a principal cast the size of my senior year class. The last 20 minutes offer everything but Tomei going topless, including a backyard fight involving at least four coincidences so remote that the whole scene could only occur in a fever dream. Afterward, we have to stomach a graduation ceremony that serves as a showcase on how love conquers all.

And offends our intelligence. Every problem in Crazy, Stupid, Love. exists because no one asks questions or talks directly to the responsible party. Problems in a relationship don't get solved with crazy, stupid gestures but by long talks and hard truths. It takes effort, and even then the union may not be saved. (Hell, even Mrs. Doubtfire had the good sense to know that.) Crazy, Stupid, Love. just wants the good stuff. Love, however you want to describe it, doesn't work that way. Neither does anything else in this lazy, condescending movie that turns the term "crowd pleaser" into an expletive. [PG-13]


Anonymous said...

But, it's a movie.

Pete Croatto said...

Yes, it is...Just not a very good one.

JoeJack said...

I agree with anonymous. You're being jealous.

Pete Croatto said...

@JoeJack: Jealous of what? Not having glamorized marital woes? Not having an obnoxious, wise-beyond-his-years 13-year-old son? Seriously I don't have an envy-tinged vendetta. CSL isn't good.