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The Independent Critic

Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon
Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Dan Fogelman
Rated PG-13
118 Mins.
Warner Brothers
Now includes Instant Streaming with UltraViolet Digital Copy
-Deleted Scenes

 "Crazy, Stupid, Love" Review 
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There are films that you just plain love. It doesn't matter if they're flawed or ludicrous or impossible or convoluted. It doesn't matter if the acting is a touch off or certain characters are underdeveloped.

Sometimes, you just plain love a film.

Because. Just because.

Crazy, Stupid, Love isn't intensely flawed, though it's also not a perfect film. Crazy, Stupid, Love isn't so much ludicrous or impossible, but it is bogged down just a touch by too many characters with too many stories to tell. The acting isn't off in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but it's hard not to wish that certain actors, most notably Kevin Bacon and Julianne Moore, were given a tad more to do in the film.

But, you know what?

I loved it. I loved these characters ... even the underdeveloped ones. I loved these stories and the lives they revealed. I cared, truly cared about everyone in the film and wanted desperately for everyone to end up happy in the end.

I laughed a lot. I cried a little. Mostly, I just really enjoyed spending time with these people created by screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Cars) and beautifully realized by co-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (I Love You Phillip Morris). That's the difference, really. These folks weren't just characters for me, but living and breathing human beings with quirks and foibles, strengths and weaknesses, hopes and desires.

Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is pretty much the quintessential "good guy," having been married to the only woman he's ever loved and had sex with, Emily (Julianne Moore), for 25+ years but by the time we meet them the spark is gone and Emily has had an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon). The marriage is over and Cal is too numb to fight. Cal starts hanging out at a local bar, the kind of bar where desperate men go to pick up desperate women and where desperate women go to be picked up by desperate men. After several nights in a row of sipping on vodka cranberries and moaning aloud about his wife's cheating ways, Cal attracts the attention/pity of the bar's resident player, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), falling quickly  under Jake's spell. Jake's combination of pity and compassion turns into a sort of mentoring role as Jake begins to show Cal how to take back his manhood inside and out.

There's at least a decent chance by now that Crazy, Stupid, Love has reminded you of any number of other films, but rest assured that this film is far better than the vast majority of any films that may come to mind. First off, Fogelman has avoided character caricatures and developed authentic human beings who capture both the well of sadness that lies deep within the film and the abundance of heart and humor that keeps them going even when everything is falling apart. The lazy way to have made this film would have been to stroke it for cheap laughs ... fortunately, all involved refuse to take the easy route and Crazy, Stupid, Love is much better because everyone involved really breathes life into their characters.

We've already known that Steve Carell could do comedy and that he can play the good guy, the lovable loser. This time around, Carell transcends the humor and really becomes Cal. Sure, we laugh along the way. Here, however, Carell creates a character who leaves a lasting impression. Carell has always been able to find the humor in his characters, but here he finds the richness of their humanity and the wonder of their being. There are so many little scenes here where you begin to realize why Emily fell in love with him, scenes that will likely leave most women in the audience wishing they could find a man just like Cal.

As wonderful a performance as Carell offers, the film's real revelation may very well be Ryan Gosling. There's been no question that the young Gosling could act, having snagged an Oscar nomination for Lars and the Real Girl and also serving up an acclaimed performance in last year's Blue Valentine among a multitude of acclaimed performances. Gosling hasn't really done much along the comedy route, but serves notice here that he has the chops for both physical comedy and verbal wit. The gift of having Gosling here is that he mines the character of Jacob for so much more than most people would have found, creating a rather righteous dude out of what most would have seen as nothing more than a barroom lothario.

The rest of the ensemble cast is excellent, as well. While she's given far too little to do, Julianne Moore is top notch as Emily, a woman who knows that something is missing and who wanders around trying to find it. Kevin Bacon shines in a relatively brief bit as Emily's potential boyfriend and co-worker, especially in a scene where he goes through a bit of verbal jousting with Cal and Emily's son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo). Speaking of Bobo, he turns the babysitter crush cliche' into a rather endearing (bordering on scary) jones for the family babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) who happens to have a crush on someone else. Marisa Tomei shows up and, as usual, steals just about every scene she's in. Emma Stone, easily one of the best of the up-and-coming young actresses, is both sexy and cute as Cal's eldest daughter and, well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

There are so many wonderful scenes in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but I find myself not wanting to write about them. I want you to see them for yourself, because I have complete faith that they'll make you laugh and cry and nod with familiarity as they did me.

If this is the kind of film that Steve Carell's going to be making in his post The Office days, then be gone The Office. With Carell's best cinematic performance to date, Gosling's newfound gift for humane humor and a cast that uniformly shines, you'd be both crazy and stupid not to check out Crazy, Stupid, Love.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic