July 29, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The Little Black Notebook

Grade: B

Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Marisa Tomei, and Kevin Bacon

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

The copious movie references – Dirty Dancing, The Graduate, The Karate Kid, even the difference between PG-13 and R-rated sex – sprinkled throughout Crazy, Stupid, Love. are more than mere comedic accoutrements. They are self-referential acknowledgements that in our pop culture-saturated society, the way we define the reality of romance is shaped by our force-fed perceptions of it.

This fable about love from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) begins with a breakup. While drowning away his sorrows following the bust-up of his 25-year marriage to Emily (Julianne Moore), Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a smooth-talking lothario who volunteers to be Cal’s makeover artist ex machina. Soon, Cal jettisons his knit shirts and New Balance sneakers for a smarter wardrobe and begins bedding barflies, including his son’s gonzo grade school teacher (Marisa Tomei). Soon, Jacob’s jaded view of love is rocked by a plucky redhead named Hannah (Emma Stone) after the two spent their first night together talking instead of other illicit activities.

There’s an unfair imbalance in the film’s allocation of marital accountability. Emily prompts the split with Cal, admitting an affair with a coworker (Kevin Bacon). [Compare this to Hannah leaving her longtime boyfriend (Josh Groban) because he didn’t pop the question in time and place she thought he should.] Yet, it’s Cal who leaves the family home to move into a nondescript apartment and whose subsequent foray into the single life is frowned upon by his friends and family. And, it’s Cal who is expected to bare his soul in public during an eighth-grade graduation that’s hijacked in order to hold a group therapy session.

The thoroughly capable cast embraces a blazingly whip-smart script by Dan Fogelman (Cars; Tangled), and that more justifies this romantic dramedy. However, once it starts teetering on contrivance and self-absorption, Crazy, Stupid, Love. leans too far in the direction of its first two adjectives.

Neil Morris

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