It's Valentines Day and what better way to celebrate than watching everyone's favourite romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. Except there are many people who don't.
Here, our film writers Paul and Robbie battle it out, which side would you take?
Crazy, Stupid, Love is the best Rom-Com of all time. You can have your Four Weddings and your Love Actually's but this is the movie that takes the cake. The 2011 hit, starring Steve Carell as a divorced man who is introduced back into the world of dating by a serial womaniser (Ryan Gosling), was the second film by directing team Glen Ficarra and John Requa, whose previous film I Love You, Phillip Morris was an excellent biopic. The excellence didn’t stop.
First off, the performances are brilliant. Steve Carell is always entertaining, nobody can deny that, but this is a performance that borders on serious when it’s clearly humorous. He is hilarious, but that doesn’t stop him from being absolutely amazing. Julianne Moore, who plays his wife, delivers a fine performance too. Moore is one of those actresses where if she’s bad, she’s really bad, but when she’s good, she’s fantastic. She fits the role perfectly, and her chemistry with Carell, whether it be hateful or loving, is just great. Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei are right where they belong: Sat on the sideline, ready to come in when hilarity is needed. This film hardly runs short of humour, but as soon as it does, they throw a bit of these two and it gets the ball rolling again.
But the best performance perhaps comes from Ryan Gosling, playing Jacob, the young, handsome womanizer with an eye for the ladies and a knack for bedding them. Gosling usually plays quite serious roles; from gripping and tense (Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines) to borderline depressing (The Notebook, Blue Valentine), there seems to be nothing Gosling can’t do. But it’s not hard to think from these performances that perhaps comedy isn’t his bag. That’s probably what a lot of people were thinking after Drive came out in 2011, and a few months later he proved them all wrong. Gosling blends right in, playing a movie character that every woman wished was real. Much like Barney Stinson in How I Met your Mother, he frequents nightclubs and impresses a girl or two.
The writing is just so brilliant, and really, really clever. The third act (If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about) is an absolute stroke of genius. If Bridesmaids could get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, then there is no reason why this couldn’t. Above all else, the biggest thing this film does right is make sure it doesn’t just become all about sex. Well, there is sex in this film. Quite a bit actually. But it never lets sex become the point of it all. Unlike most Rom-Coms these days, it’s actually about love, and is certainly more romantic than 80% of modern love films (I’m looking at you, Endless Love).
A lot of us can get a bit cynical on Valentine’s Day; we’re either bitter that we’re alone or we just think it’s a stupid holiday. Me, I like to think I sit in the middle. I recognize that this is just a lovely little holiday to celebrate the best feeling in the world. And for those of us who are single, it’s an unknown feeling. But its’ films like this that pump it back into you and remind you why people like this day so much. Singletons, if you’ve got nothing to do tonight, go out and get Crazy, Stupid, Love on DVD and you’ll have all that you need. Couples don’t pay to see Endless Love in cinema tonight. Go straight from dinner and buy the film, and you’ll have such a better night. Tonight, all I need is Crazy, Stupid, Love and a few bottles of Cider to appreciate the meaning of today. For this film is a master class on how to make a perfect Rom-Com.
I hope you all have wonderful evenings. Happy Valentines Day!
I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is a difference between a romantic comedy and a relationship drama. Whilst they both effectively tackle the same basic concept (love and the vast changes it can cause), they differ in how they choose to approach it. A romantic comedy is often a more light-hearted affair, with whimsy and fantasy playing a greater part in proceedings, which is why they so often seem kind of silly. A relationship drama, on the other hand, tends to be less irreverent when it comes to matters of the heart. Perhaps most easily labelled as the more grown up of the two sub-genres, the relationship drama concerns itself more with the realities of what it takes to keep a romantic relationship alive after that initial giddy high wears off.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. is something that sells itself more as the latter rather than the former (although that certainly doesn’t preclude it from being comedic). It attempts to carry across to audiences a greater feeling of emotional honesty, the air of a film that casts a sincere and frank eye over the landscape of those brave enough to venture into the tricky world of love and relationships. When Cal (Steve Carell) plays a game of catch with his son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), he tries to explain to the boy that he can’t just get back together with Emily (Julianne Moore), that things are a bit more complicated than that. To facilitate this distinction, the film makes repeated attempts to distance itself from other films that lean more on the fantasy aspects of love. There’s a swing taken at the emptiness of Twilight, at the ridiculousness of Dirty Dancing, and at the general absurdity of grand romantic gestures so prevalent in pretty much every romantic comedy under the sun.
Here’s the thing, though. Crazy, Stupid, Love. is as absurd, ridiculous and ultimately empty as the movies it points at so accusingly.
A huge problem is simply that the characters in this film are nothing more than constructions built to order, made by writer Dan Fogelman to be used as ciphers for his paean to the absurdity of love’s many foibles. No one here really acts like a real person, which would be perfectly fine, even par for the course in the world of romantic comedy, but, as mentioned previously, Crazy, Stupid, Love. actively tries to separate itself from that pack. These are people meant to be experiencing something closer to what the real world has to throw at them. And yet there they go, pulling out the same well-worn speeches, the grand gestures and the ludicrously farcical moments that pretty much shatter any notion that this film had of being anything other than a tired standard in a new suit.
Besides, we already have (500) Days of Summer for all that (which I love, by the way).
And there are people trying their best here. The cast are talented and game for the job, even occasionally managing to turn moments of eye-rolling contrivance into something approaching genuine emotion (except for the hideous waste of Tomei, here playing an abysmal one-note hyper-emotional teacher). It’s just so frequently buckled by the film’s inescapable sense of self-satisfaction that it never really fully lands. The closest any of it comes to feeling alive is the scenes between Stone and Gosling, whose chemistry goes a long way towards making things feel agreeable.
And sweet Jesus, the running time… two hours it takes for this film to come to its so utterly predetermined conclusion that we need scarcely even bother paying attention. At least a decent romantic comedy has the decency to keep it snappy. I will take the honest dignity of something that knows what it is (like, I dunno, Under the Tuscan Sun) over something so smugly posturing and deluded as Crazy, Stupid, Love. It’s a film that pays lip service to how complicated relationships are, but doesn’t for a second buy into it. For all of its pretensions towards sophistication, this film remains an emotionally inexperienced 13-year old boy with a crush.