Ryan Gosling is the hottest property in Hollywood right now. This week alone he’s in cinemas with this quirky post-modern rom-com and Nicholas Winding Refn’s arthouse actioner ‘Drive’. Luckily in this outing he has a solid ensemble cast to take some of the weight from his broad, muscular shoulders (sorry, man crush kicking in).
The story centres on Cal Weaver (Steve Carell). A 40-something man with a steady job, a happy family and a stable world. Of course, in cinema such worlds don’t last long.
Within 10 minutes his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has confessed to an extramarital affair and demanded a divorce. With his world exploding around him, Cal consigns himself to a small bachelor pad and a lonely new life. That is, until he bumps into womaniser extraordinaire Jacob Palmer (Gosling) in a bar.
The man has a system, and boy does it work. Soon Cal is is prowling the bar himself, rediscovering his confidence and discovering a lot more about women. Naturally, there is trouble on the horizon, and both men soon discover that variety isn’t always the spice of life.
To give you a better sense of the film, let me paint the cinematic landscape. ‘The Kids Are All Right’, in which Moore also stars, is the closest thing around, having blazed the trail for a complex family dramedy; while the comedy elements take snippets from Carell’s back catalogue, particularly ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’. Throw in a multi-strand plot that tries to cover multiple generations’ perceptions of love and there you have it.
It’s quite a lot of ground to cover in two hours, but the charisma of Carell and Gosling, and their unlikely bromance, keep the pace up and the character intrigue high. They somehow strike up a great chemistry and their witty patter becomes the heart of the film.
Some clever twists and a useful subplot test the relationship in amusing and entertaining ways, but it gets a bit diffused by a couple of under-devloped (and frankly a little weird) additional subplots.
Cal’s son has a crush on his babysitter, but she likes Cal, cue teen angst. But for some reason it ends in some borderline prison-grade photography that seems to be inserted as a nod to the recent blight of ‘sexting’ rather than a genuine enhancement to the story. Certainly it’s farcical conclusion, which provides a few laughs at least, is taken way too far.
Meanwhile Julianne Moore is rather wasted as Emily, whose only task seems to be sitting on a pedestal as two men fight over her. Being the talented actress she is, Moore naturally injects a surprising amount of emotion and gravitas into the few scenes she’s given, but it still can’t account for what is essentially an underwritten role.
Emma Stone’s relationship dramas are equally peripheral, but, like more, her on-screen charms easily offer enough to justify how quickly and completely Jacob falls for her.
But whatever the little niggles may be, one thing that has to be said about ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ is that its cast deliver heartfelt performances that bring enough energy and conviction to the occasionally-ropey script for this to function as an enjoyable relationship drama.
On the comedy side, directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) pull enough from the Carell/Gosling double act, and an on-form Marissa Tomei (whose short appearance in a typecast role is nonetheless memorable), to satisfy audiences who come in expecting more laughter than tears.
It’s not another powerhouse for the Gosling repertoire, but it is a funny, moving relationship movie that does it’s job ably. I’d still rather watch ‘The Kids Are All Right’ again though.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is released today in the UK!