If someone told you the dual directors of I Love You Phillip Morris teamed up with the writer of Pixar’s Cars for a serio-comedic buddy flick centered around a divorce and young boy’s crush on his teenage babysitter, and that it starred Steve Carell and the guy from The Notebook, no one would blame you for shaking your head and walking the other way.
But Crazy, Stupid, Love. may just be one of the best, funniest, and sharpest movies to hit theaters in a good long while.
Carell is Cal, a sneakers-and-corduroy-blazer-wearing schlub whose wife Emily (Julianne Moore) blurts out over dinner one night that she wants a divorce; turns out she’s been seeing her co-worker David (Kevin Bacon) on the side.
Cal moves out of the house they share with their two children and begins drowning his sorrows at a local watering hole frequented by dozens of single women and one smooth-talkin’ ladies man named Jacob (Ryan Gosling). After overhearing Cal’s drunken whining about his pitiful life, Jacob decides to take Cal under his wing and train him to get back on the horse… so to speak.
Using his “Be better than The Gap” mantra, Jacob begins by retooling Cal’s wardrobe, and then instructs Cal to observe him in action at the bar. Just like that, the best Miyagi/Daniel-san relationship, since, well… The Karate Kid, is born.
At the same time, Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is crushing on his 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton)… who’s nursing her own creepy, secret crush on Cal. And then there’s lawyer-to-be Hannah (Emma Stone), who’s dealing with her own love issues after being hit-on by Jacob and discovering that her boyfriend’s just not that into her. The stories eventually mesh themselves together, but not without first creating as downright hilarious a set of scenarios as you could hope for (and then some).
The script by Dan Fogelman (who, yes, wrote Cars, along with fellow kid-faves Bolt and Tangled) is a showcase for some of the most honest and true-to-life dialogue to hit the screen in months, if not years. There’s not a single cliché or a even a bit of cloying gooey-ness to be found anywhere, and, in fact, there are actually more than a handful of pleasant surprises and clever twists.
As first-rate as the script is, though, the performances from the entire cast, to a person, are nothing short of brilliant. Fans of The Office will understand in a heartbeat why Carell packed up and left the show; here we’re treated to an entirely new side of the man who made Michael Scott a household name. It’s a performance that will turn heads, bust guts, and break hearts.
Gosling is a smooth as they come, and his performance is capped with what turns out to be one of the best sequences in the movie– I’ll just say Dirty Dancing and leave it at that. Tipton and Bobo are great as teenagers in (unrequited) love, and Moore picks up right where she left off in The Kids Are All Right. Stone, last seen as a teenager in 2010’s woefully overlooked Easy A has grown into an even better actress in the interim. And Marisa Tomei, as the first object of Cal’s post-separation affections, is (as he puts it at one point), the perfect combination of sexy and cute.
Co-directors Glenn Ficcara and John Requa keep the full-tilt laughs coming and the drama low(ish)-key, and they also allow the perfect amount of good ol’ fashioned heart into the mix. Even when we reach the inevitable conclusion, Crazy, Stupid, Love. feels fresh and new and, most importantly, honest.
Common sense will tell you that the movie has no chance come Oscar time, but there’s no good reason for it not to be considered… many times over. It’s just that good.