Estranged Carl (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) sit in uncomfortable school chairs in the silent hallway waiting for their parent teacher conference for their eccentric son Robbie (Jonah Bobo). Carl says, “I miss you Em.” He confesses his anger for not having the courage to fight for her, “ because you fight for your soul mates.” You fight for your soul mate. That is what distinguishes and touches your heart about “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa in tandem narrate this hysterical and poignant portrait of life.
I did not notice that Ficarra and Requa co-helmed this voyage until the end credits. In retrospect, this makes sense given the distinct narrative threads that poetically intertwine. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is one the best movies of year. Julianne Moore is amazing, deserving of an Oscar Nomination. Ryan Gosling as master player and Carl’s mentor, Jacob, is awesome in his bravado and reluctant compassion. Gosling too deserves a Supporting Nomination nod. Steve Carell is invisible in his understatement; though his performance as Carl is all authenticity, vulnerability, and courage. His speech at the story arc is in character, and powerfully touches your soul. He is brilliant.
The transparency and fluidity of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the genius of Ficarra and Requa. They seamlessly envision the screenplay by Dan Fogelman. The innate brilliance of Fogelman is that in this world, people are smart; it’s just sometimes we all do stupid things. The most courageous of us forgive. Carell and Moore have astounding chemistry. I was in awe of the scene at night where Carl sneaks into his home to garden the lawn. While their kids have ice cream in the kitchen, Emily calls Carl’s cell in another room. She invents a washing machine problem to ask Carl’s advice. He plays along, all the while watching Em from the lawn. What resonates is their unspoken love.
As “Crazy, Stupid, Love” opens we witness all too familiar Carl and Emily having their scheduled dinner date, while the kids are left with the babysitter Jessica (sharp and beguiling Analeigh Tipton). Out of nowhere Em announces that she wants a divorce after 27 years. On the drive home Em also confesses an affair with co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Bacon is awesome in his charming smugness. When Em refuses to shut up, Carl ejects himself from the moving car.
Back home Jessica finds herself in the midst of Carl and Emily’s implosion. Jessica secretly is in love with the solid Carl—why she takes the gig. Previously, to the deathly embarrassment of their son Robbie, Jessica unexpectedly witnesses 13 year-old Robbie’s crush on her. For Jessica, Carl is the fantasy opportunity. For Robbie, he is perhaps alone on an island.
Carl moves out of their home into an apartment. Clumsily and desperately he begins frequenting a local bar. Slick handsome master player Jacob dressed in his Dolce’ suit has compassion for wallowing Carl, whose wife slept with David Linhagen. Carl begrudgingly agrees to a makeover and Jacob schools him in the art of getting with women. One tip for Carl: Never talk about yourself. Amazingly sound.
In the meantime, smart and beautiful Hannah (Emma Stone) is a law student studying for the bar exam, with expectations of joining the firm where she interns. More specifically, she is holding out for marriage proposal from the firm’s deadly bland attorney Richard (scarily boring Josh Groban). Hannah’s friend Liz advises that she can do way better. She also warns Hannah that she has a “PG-13 love life”. While the two are having a drink at the bar, Jacob makes a play for Hannah. Jacob is bewitched by Hannah, partial, because she seems immune to his charms.
Later when Hannah’s world collapses, she tracks down Jacob to “bang” the hot guy who hit on her. He queries, “They still say banging?” Emma Stone is wonderful. She is naturally self-deprecating with a big heart. When shredded Jacob takes off his shirt, Stone says, “Come on! It’s like you’re photo-shopped!” Ryan Gosling is ripped, but that is eclipsed by his amazing performance. He humanizes the transforming cad, who finds his soul mate and is completely defenseless. Gosling evokes a quiet power. When Carl tells Jacob that Hannah is too good for him, he gazes into his drink and admits, “I know ”
The cast all have their moments. Tipton is a surprise as Jessica. She captures the angst of the teen growing into a woman. Marisa Tomei is restrained comedic brilliance as Kate. Bobo as Robbie is harder to peg. At times he seems relegated to appointed jester; however, he poignantly reminds his Dad that you fight for your soul mate. Writer Fogelman culturally whips everything at us, from hysterical sexting, “Twilight” jokes, to even “Dirty Dancing”. At the end one concluding narrative thread on the surface is humorous, and perhaps unintentionally creepy. Probably chalk it up to the eye of the beholder. Acknowledge and applaud Ficarra and Requa for the poignant and humorous catharsis. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is all about the possibility of finding and fighting for your soul mate. Sure love can make you crazy or sometimes do stupid things. And love is the only thing that matters.
This post was previously published on www.goodmanproject.com and is republished here with permission from the author.