With a cast made up of Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei, you would think we would have a great movie on our hands. Unfortunately, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the directing team behind “I Love You Phillip Morris”) from an unbalanced script by Dan Fogelman (“Tangled”) wastes the talents of its gifted cast and steals elements from much better movies, such as “American Beauty” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” starts out on the path of a poignant romantic-comedy with a darkly funny edge, until it drifts off course and gets lost in an annoyingly tedious subplot.
The film begins with Cal Weaver (Carell) and his wife of 25 years, Emily (Moore), enjoying a nice dinner at a high-end restaurant, when Emily stuns Cal with a request for a divorce. While driving home, Emily confesses to a silent Cal that she has been cheating on him with a co-worker, David Lindhagen (Bacon), prompting Cal to open the car door and roll right out of the conversation onto the pavement below.
Back at home, Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), professes his love to his 17-year-old baby sitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who has a crush of her own on a much older man, the unwitting Cal.
Also entering into the mix is Jacob Palmer (Gosling), a smooth-talking, suave ladies man, who each night frequents an upscale cocktail bar, and successfully coaxes a stunning beauty into his bed. That is until he meets Hannah (Stone), an ambitious law student, who seems impervious to his lady-killer charms.
Our stories soon merge, as an angry and depressed Cal starts frequenting the local upscale cocktail bar, where Jacob makes a killing, and proceeds to drink his sorrows away and rant about how he meets the definition of a cuckold. Jacob takes notice of sad-sack Cal, and decides to take him on as a protégé, much like Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid.” Instead of martial arts, Jacob teaches Cal the art of the pickup.
Soon after mastering the pickup, Cal realizes he will always love his wife and sets out to get her back. Meanwhile, Jacob falls in love with Hannah.
There is too much going on here, which winds up hurting the overall quality of the film. It would have been much better if Fogelman condensed his script and deleted some of the fluff, such as the irritating subplot involving Robbie, the baby sitter and the oblivious Cal. Fogelman instead should have kept his focus strictly on the friendship between Cal and Jacob, Cal’s complicated relationship with Emily, and Jacob and Hannah’s budding relationship.
Treading above the floundering script are the strong performances. Carell (TV’s “The Office,” “Dinner for Schmucks”) is terrific as a wounded man, trying to move on and forgive his wife. Moore (“Children of Men”) effortlessly exhibits the emotions of a woman filled with regret for what she has done. Stone (“Friends with Benefits”) is great as an ambitious law student, who likes to play it safe. The always good Bacon (“X-Men: First Class”) does what he can with a miniscule role. Tomei (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) provides us with a few laughs as a crazed teacher. But it is Gosling (“Blue Valentine”) who owns this movie. Gosling is spot-on as a wealthy, cunning playboy, content with taking a new woman home every night, but really longing for a lasting connection.
Ficarra and Requa along with cinematographer Andrew Dunn make some unique decisions, especially during the opening montage focusing on the shoes of various happy couples and a not so happy couple at a high-end restaurant, as well as an affectionate love scene, in which they keep the focus on Jacob while shrouding the woman in his company in shadow.
The film also features a tender musical score by Christophe Beck and Nick Urata mixed with a great soundtrack that flawlessly complements the film’s themes. Standout tracks include: Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s “Revenge (Featuring The Flaming Lips)”; The Dead Weather’s “I Can’t Hear You”; Doris Troy’s “Just One Look”; Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La”; John Legend’s “Save Room”; The Middle East’s “Blood”; and Thievery Corporation’s “The Numbers Game.”
Alas, a killer cast, great music and a few funny and poignant moments, ultimately are not enough to keep “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” from drowning in the inadequacies of its story.
(“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. It can be seen at AMC Loews Jersey Gardens 20 and other nearby theaters.)
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