Crazy, Stupid, Love
In many ways, Crazy Stupid Love is an exploration into innocence and experience featuring a collection of adults, children and teenagers who demonstrate varying degrees of adolescent naivety and are linked by their uncertain grip on the adult world of love, loss and capital R Relationships. In other ways, never has a film’s title been so accurate. Allow me to elaborate.
First, the film is definitely about love. It all kicks off with the ups and downs (mainly downs) of loving father, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), and his not so loving wife. He has one lovely daughter and a lovesick son, who is hopelessly in love with the babysitter, who in turn is hopelessly in love with Cal himself. Then you have Ryan Gosling’s Jacob: a smoother-than-thou pick-up artist who cruises bars for women and is basically in love with himself. So that’s Love.
Then there’s stupid. From the outset, characters in this film do stupid things, including but not limited to: rolling out of moving cars, performing public confessions of love inspired by The Scarlet Letter, re-enacting the swan lift from Dirty Dancing, throwing shoes off balconies and putting naked photographs of themselves in envelopes within finding distance of their parents. Stupid.
Then there’s the crazy. From scene one onwards it becomes very clear that this is a film populated with (in the words of the babysitter) “bat-shit crazy” people. They are all, to man, odd, carrying out irrational acts as normal and making decisions that come out of left-field. On this level, Crazy Stupid Love is almost a study in mad behaviour, drawing its comedy from a well of dysfunction. It doesn’t take long for the film to establish that people are weird, and weird is funny, be it Jacob inviting a virtual stranger to stare at his penis, or melancholic pre-teen Robbie Weaver calmly delivering a “love is for assholes” diatribe to his English class. Crazy crazy crazy. Just how they all avoid being unwatchably irritating is frankly a miracle (though some come dangerously close).
Now, I’ve double-checked and no-where in the title does it mention the word ‘genuine’, so you would imagine that the film wouldn’t even attempt to reach up and rummage around on that particular shelf. With all the Crazy and all the Stupid, Crazy Stupid Love stays firmly on the right side of farce, romping about like an expensive sit-com with enough quirk to earn some Indie credentials. The problem is that just when you resign yourself to this, a big fat slice of Genuine comes out of nowhere and sits there, unannounced, and you find yourself staring at it like “WTF is that?” The first Genuine Moment is a real miss-hit; Steve Carell mooching about in the rain after confessing his recent exploits to his recently estranged wife, immediately after meeting said recent exploit at his son’s Parent/ Teacher night.
It doesn’t work. Unlike, say, The 40 Year-Old Virgin (of which there are shades in this film), Crazy Stupid Love doesn’t give you quite enough sensitivity early on enough to make the midway hit of Genuine Drama feel anything other than misplaced. When, shortly afterwards, the second hit of Genuine Drama arrives, there is real potential for a full-on derailment, save one small thing: Ryan Gosling.
If you don’t already know, Gosling took complete ownership of 2011 with acclaimed performance after acclaimed performance, and really, the man can do no wrong. In Jacob, he lends an intensely charming likeability to what is essentially an amoral sexual deviant. When the time comes for his first Genuine Moment (a failed one-night stand with Emma Stone’s Hannah), there is a depth of character that carries the farce gently into calmer, stiller waters, with little turbulence. In Gosling we trust.
The good news is that while Crazy Stupid Love doesn’t seem to know exactly what it is (open-handed sit-com? Off-beat Indie?) it never forsakes its excellent sense of humour. You will laugh, at least twice, and the absolutely insane climax provides a good old-fashioned twist that eases you gently into the final act. Fairly fluffy stuff, I’ll admit, but anything else would have been unfair for such a vulnerable set of characters with such endearingly big hearts. On three! One, two, three: “Awwww….”