Sunday, 13 May 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011, Glenn Ficara & John Requa)

This 'romantic dramedy' (or whatever they call them these days) manages to impress and excel beyond the typical restraints of the studio system. With a star studded cast and a promising script that just about pulls it together by the end, Crazy, Stupid, Love is leaps and bounds ahead of the usual cynical studio offerings, though it makes some uneasy decisions and bites off way more than it can chew.

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play married couple Cal and Emily; high school sweethearts and married since 17, Cal is distraught upon learning the only woman he's ever loved wants divorce as she confesses her unhappiness and unfaithfulness, all over dessert in a swanky restaurant. He takes the news badly and quickly transforms into a self-loathing morose mess of a man, pestering people in bars and shouting the name of the man who Emily admitted to sleeping with. Cal's unsociable defeatist antics catches the eye of 'ladies man' Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who vows to get Cal spruced up with new clothes, a new outlook on life and above all, himself.

Jacob is a rich and handsome man revelling in the single life; oozing with confidence and overwhelming seductive prowess, he's taken aback when his advances are rejected by young Hannah played by Emma Stone (Easy A). She easily walks away from him despite her friends' badgering, labelling her mad to deny such an opportunity. Hannah doesn't think so, she's happy with her current relationship and thinks she's met Mr. Right, confident in a future together. Again, Hannah's friend disagrees with her outlook, thinking she can do much better.

In typical movie montage fashion Jacob takes Cal shopping for new fashionable attire, offering tips to help boost Cal on the dating circuit as they go along. Jacob's reasons for selflessly helping the hapless sap are as yet unknown, but his mission is to make Emily regret the day she gave up on her marriage, though he also doesn't hesitate telling Cal that he was his own undoing.

The film doesn't hesitate to start proceedings off, with the D word being uttered within a minute of meeting the Weavers we're not granted the usual overview of an apparently functioning marriage before being shocked as it breaks down. This isn't a problem, what is is the hurried nature of the film as we flit between the two narrative threads, Cal and Jacob's master/apprentice scenario, and Hannah's life crisis as she doubts her general happiness and direction. In wasting no time introducing us to the characters and their predicaments, it's just as quick to forget them. Hannah goes awol for a painfully long time, at first being set up as relevant and a lively player in the game, an actress as genuinely enjoyable as Emma Stone is always going to be missed. Though there's a reason for this absence to a point, the inclusion of a small scene or two could still have saved an awkward saggy midsection where the trajectory of the film is unfortunately woeful. At this stage we should be settled in and enjoying the films' mostly well guided array of humour and drama, instead we just worry, worry that it's going to fall flat on its face. The problem is that Crazy, Stupid Love never decides where its interest lies, whether its focal point should be the Weavers' wavering marriage, their son's infatuation with his babysitter, the babysitter's infatuation for Cal. These layers work and add up to make the film's standpoint convincing in the end, yet it struggles to juggle them competently throughout and buckles under the sheer amount it takes on. The real story after all, is the rekindling of affection between Cal and Emily, this is the film's centre and it forgets this too easily. Once again less is more.

With some neat entertaining little twists towards the finale, the film offers more than most of its type and does have a steadfast message that only wavers at times due to over crowding. Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are underused but have fine turns as Cal and Emily's respective flings, with Tomei having particular fun as her deranged recovering alcoholic teacher. It would have been nice to have spent more time with Jacob, his character is brought around nicely in a redeeming arc, adding warmth to the cold womaniser he once was. His reasons for helping Cal could have been heightened for more impact, as his lonely high life and clear parental issues could garner further attention. Despite its misjudgments Crazy, Stupid, Love hangs together quite nicely when all is said and done, with any cinematic cliches being pardoned in its knowing nature, its message of never giving up on something worth fighting for is  also sweet and earnest. The comedy mostly works, apart from some descents into American Pie like stabs, due to the filmmakers refusing to hone in on a demographic and desperately trying to please all audiences.

Crazy, Stupid, Love would have been a better film if it made the decision to cling to Cal and Emily more intensely, for what its worth many other Hollywood films could learn from this, more like this would be nice please. Then, and only then, a film of this quality and complexion can be dedicated to any age group instead of vain attempts at pleasing them all at once.