Sunday, 25 September 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Rating: 12A
Duration: 118 mins

It's not unfair suggesting romantic comedies (or rom-coms, as the cool kids say) are ten-a-penny and is a sub-genre that forms the perfect date night fodder. The problem with the format is that for every successful effort, there are a dozen duds. And why? Well, more-often-than-not the rom-com is a genre so saturated with monetary motives, it can easily lose its integrity until a rare gem pops up.

Fortunately, with duo Glen Ficarra and John Requa at the helm - the writers of such quality comedy as Bad Santa - initial signs are positive, and thankfully the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston are nowhere to be seen. Writer Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Bolt, Cars), assumes script control with an impressive cast consisting of established and new talent: veterans Julianne Moore and Steve Carell star with (relative) newcomers Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, in a smartly written romantic comedy that sets itself apart from the norm.

After discovering his wife Emily (Moore), is having an affair with work colleague David (Kevin Bacon), Cal (Carell), stumbles into a mid-life crisis of singleness until he meets smooth-talking, lady-killer Jacob (Gosling), who vows to turn his luck around and make him a success with the opposite sex. Meanwhile, we follow a subplot with Hannah (Stone), who, unconvinced she's with the right man, stifles an impending marriage to Richard (Josh Groban). As Cal embarks on a series of promiscuous shenanigans, his teenage son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has pending issues of his own: an insatiable, yet amusing love for his slightly older babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton).

The writing of these parallel stories are slick, as they intertwine occasionally; it rarely slackens, as this intelligent comedy never opts for cheap laughs, instead adhering to a more sophisticated take. Crazy, Stupid, Love is a surprising and endearingly romantic comedy. It has mass appeal to both genders for many reasons. Relatable leads such as Stone and Gosling will satisfy the younger audiences: the former is somewhat of a female role model, as well as a pretty face for the male demographic, and the same can be said for Gosling who possesses a metrosexual appeal: girls want him as their boyfriend and guys want to be him. For the most part, the characters remain hugely enjoyable, even through the conflicts that occur in the plot. They are hard to dislike as neatly constructed, yet flawed people presented to us.

Carell and Gosling form a strong bond as the leading men that make up the main story: we follow them from an initial awkward meeting as they develop a friendship through the art of seducing women. They bounce off one another well, as their character arcs change as the script develops. Indeed, we become privy to a world of male bonding via the techniques they use to pick up women- one particular conquest of Cal's comes back to cause him problems just as a glimmer of hope shines for his marriage.

Tonally the film is a mixture of feel-good and emotional despair. Suffice to say, it actually works very well with such starkly contrasting scenes, especially with a comedic element throughout as the issues of love, loss and relationships ring true. We cannot help but join Cal during his emotional rollercoaster of liberating highs and marriage crushing lows.

Audiences are rewarded with an amusing twist towards the conclusion as it rounds-up in a pleasing, yet predictably resolute manner that delves deeper than many of its competitors, whilst sustaining the surrealism of the genre. In avoiding constant clichés, it comes across as fresh and, with Jacobs's suaveness, makes it a more palatable experience and one audiences can actually engage with rather than passively enjoy as a mere popcorn flick. 

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the smartest and most likable comedy of the year. It's witty, funny and sharply written, as it avoids feelings overly familiar and clichéd. Each story thread is well paced, which culminates in an unpredictable, yet hilarious climax. The roles are cast well, with charming turns from Gosling and Carell, as well as great support: this ticks all the boxes and then some.