The new romantic comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love, tries its darndest to cover all aspects of romance - marriage, first love, crush, divorce, playing the field, and more - in just under two hours. It's a noble effort, and the cast is as good as it gets with these types of films (especially Ryan Gosling), but the end result is just hit and miss.
Steve Carell stars as Cal, a buttoned-down guy whose comfortable, if boring, life is rattled by his wife's (Julianne Moore) request for a divorce and admission to sleeping with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon). From there, much of the movie revolves around Cal's nightly visits to a local watering hole, where a smooth ladies man (Gosling) takes Cal under his wing and shows him the ropes.
This is just one of many of plot lines that zig and zag, and all intersect in the end. Writer Dan Fogelman's script is ambitious and busy. There are a handful of funny one-liners, and a nifty plot twist that many audiences will embrace. I guess I should have seen it coming (it definitely pulls the same rope-a-dope that Modern Family did in its pilot), but it still surprised me.
The best moments in the film all feature Gosling. Whether he's teaching Carell how to get a woman into bed, or romancing Emma Stone, he is simply magnetic as a performer. And the range on this guy! It's actually nice to see him lighten up a bit after such serious, brilliant turns in Half Nelson and Blue Valentine. He's really funny here and his chemistry with both Stone and Carell is excellent. So, yes, Gosling rules, and is worth the price of admission alone.
When he's off screen or not the focus of a scene, the movie kind of falters. The Moore-Bacon scenes don't really do much for the viewer, and the emphasis on soulmates feels optimistic yet tacky. Things really fall off the wagon in the climatic scene though, where Cal interrupts his son's grade school graduation speech. That scene strives for the effect that similar scenes in movies like About a Boy or Love, Actually managed to pull off, but Crazy, Stupid, Love isn't as lucky.
I wanted to love this one, but ended up just merely liking it in spite of some flaws. Carell may be the headliner and he gets a chance to stretch some dramatic muscles in a somewhat unlikeable role, but Gosling owns this movie. You'd be both crazy and stupid not to love him here.