DIRECTED BY GLENN FICARRA and JOHN REQUA
STARRING: STEVE CARELL, JULIANNE MOORE, RYAN GOSLING, EMMA STONE, ANALEIGH TIPTON, JONAH BOBO, JOEY KING, LIZA LAPIRA with KEVIN BACON and MARISA TOMEI
A Couple are having dinner together in a restaurant that’s like a do-it-yourself foot massage parlour. The two in focus are pretty still, though, you sense a casual, almost lethargic bit of tension between them. The air is then let out as the Woman (Julianne Moore) throws the D-word, much to the man’s (Steve Carell) surprise. You don’t know if he was expecting it, but it’s shown that he doesn’t take it too well. In the meantime, at their place, a 17-year-old Baby Sitter (Analeigh Tipton) walks into the room of the 13-year-old Robbie (Jonah Bobo) under her watch, only to watch him ‘doing something’ not too flattering that he assures he’s doing thinking about her. But that’s not before you’re shown that the Sitter harbours some pretty heady emotions for the man of the house. Elsewhere, two friends Hannah (Emma Stone) and Liz (Liza Lapira), the former asserting on the sexiness of talk show host Conan O’Brien, the latter ‘ew’ing at it, are approached by a leather-shoed line-dropper (Ryan Gosling) who goes for Hannah than the typical girl in Liz. To her, he’s just another ‘tomcat’ that she’d prefer to go home without. To him, she’s perhaps a Tiger-Moth to his Butterfly collection.
With that, I have introduced you to the ninth minute and possibly the whole premise of Glenn Ficarra’s and John Requa’s ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ (punctuated like that, with understandable deliberation). When was the last time that you watched a film that completely dropped all pretence and proceeded to show what exactly it was going to be about? (“We’re going to make your wife rue the day she decided to give up on you”) Only Paul Thomas Anderson would have taken longer, but second-time filmmakers Ficarra and Requa (‘I Love You, Philip Morris’) have no intention to survive on mystery; not when they have the acting potential to live it out for them. So before you know character names, before you’re familiar with who’s who in what way, you know what’s going on with them. With the individuals. From one person to another. I personally think that’s pretty great.
But the Weavers just can’t divorce each other from their lives. Remember the Fosters from ‘Date Night’? Well, this film could very well be a sequel of sorts where the goofy couple decide to give separation an actual shot just for kicks – an attempt at the impossible, only to learn later on. While the man talks about his wife to women out of his demographic, Emily watches ‘Twilight’ and takes to self-help books. Reconciliation could be thought as ‘just around the bend’, but the road is elastic, and it stretches and turns through the course of the film, through people and things and buddies and brawls before it ultimately gets there. Or somewhere close.
It’s incredible how easy it is for Steve Carell to play the kind-hearted screw-up that one can never hate, that even someone as sweet as Julianne Moore’s Emily comes off as comparatively harsher. What is a bit of a bummer is that it’s never unexpected. We’ve watched him from ‘the 40-year old Virgin’, through ‘Dan in Real Life’ to the recent ‘Date Night’ and even ‘Dinner for Schmucks’. In ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’, he just doesn’t disappoint. But Ryan Gosling is one who actually does. I mean, granted that his role as Jacob Palmer had shades of immense likeability, and granted that after ‘Blue Valentine’ (and the upcoming ‘Drive’) an actor is legally allowed to cool it down, I still had moments that I couldn’t stomach. A couple of things both said and done. Too ‘usual’. Emma Stone likewise. She’s so becoming a stereotype for the mature young girl that I wish she’d do something really stupid to get out of that mould. Probably feature in the next ‘Twilight’ as a replacement for Anna Kendrick, who’s wanted back in the real world real bad. Marisa Tomei is all-weather, Kevin Bacon (as the notorious David Lindhagen) not too much so, but they do their job with a fair amount of dignity or lack of the same. The pleasant surprise here is Analeigh Tipton, who plays the baby-sitter Jessica, torn between Boy and Man. To quote a friend, “For someone from America’s Next Top Model, not bad!” There is no way that Joey King (as Molly Weaver, the youngest) could have been given more weightage that I wished she had better not been cast, having carried the weight of ‘Ramona and Beezus’ on her shoulders earlier. Or dragged it along in a suitcase with a broken wheel. It just doesn’t make sense to give her a come-and-go anymore.
And so we’re down to the title. What’s ‘Crazy’ is how the film had to depend on a bunch of A-list stars (including Jonah Bobo and even Liza Lapira to a fair extent) to convey an concept that’s likeable by itself. What I felt was ‘Stupid’ was the casting of Joey King, which brings us to the last part. The ‘Love’. The film has loads, tons and tons of it. No one, excepting Robbie, says ‘I love you’, but you’re sure everyone thinks it. I did. You will. It’s crazy. It might even be stupid. But it’s heartwarming.