Crazy, Stupid, Love
Steve Carell is a big boy now, he’s an adult. He no longer plays small minded characters in Will Ferrel comedies or minds the main managerial position on the small screen. Though to be honest things haven’t been going all that well for him since he started that transition; his comedies, though not without potential (I mean, Tina Fey y’all), have been too shallow and his forays into drama too sallow, but that’s not to say that he made the wrong decision, no not at all. Enter Crazy, Stupid, Love. On the surface it seems like just another Romantic-Comedy, the kind of thing we’ve all seen (but never admit we’ve seen) before (right guys?) but it’s in this film’s interesting approach to the hyphen that Carell has finally found a role to justify his pre-awarded progression.
So is the film a Romantic-Comedy? It depends on how you define the term. If we’re talking literally, if we’re breaking the term into two and asking: is it romantic? Then to that I would say yes, absolutely, the film is in love with love, every character in every plot line is there to cope with some, usually forlorn, facet of that much maligned, movie-friendly emotion and it delivers the adequate feelings to us, the audience, in nearly every one; but, if you were to ask me, is it a comedy? My response would probably be, not so much.
While there is certainly plenty of wit in amongst the writing, and thus the potential for laughs, all of those standard comedy moments seem to have been purposefully broken, usually through a stilted awkwardness in delivery. This is an interesting technique it is a technique – in that it favours a moment’s reality over its hilarity; and that truth appears to be what the work is aiming for. There are also large stints without jokes and stretched out serious moments that never fully develop into a bit like we may expect them to given the star; Things simply happen as they would happen, rather than in the way that would provide the most puns. Most notable of all though is the large amount of time spent in the company of silence: silent drives, silent bars, silent walks, the film is not afraid of slowing down and letting you breathe like a comedy is, and while this dilutes the comedy it buffs those other emotions more than adequately.
Though It would be far too generous to say that all of the film’s awkwardness was intentional; because the script is, at times, a little shaky on its own merit, though you might not always notice. For instance when Gosling takes Carell on a shopping montage early on the lines are ludicrously bad (‘See under your eyes there, that’s starting to look like Hugh Hefner’s ball sack.’ is not a great bit, nor is it one worth calling back to twice) but the physical humour inherent in the actors performances is excellent (Carell opens his wallet off-screen with a velcro noise, Gosling’s face drops, hilarity ensues) and so you still laugh enough to enjoy the moment.
So it has romance and it does have some comedy, but it’s not a Rom-Com? I still say no and that’s because there is more to the moniker than it’s literal meaning. One has to wonder does Crazy follow the style-guide that Kate Hudson etched into McConaughey’s abs all those many moons ago? And the answer to that is a strong no, but it’s definitely read it (and cut out some of the pictures). Crazy is aware, hyper-aware some might say, of the genre’s hard and tight formula (and said formula’s reliance on hard and tight bodies) but feels no need to obey it’s every whim like a certain whipped character does his wife. In many way’s the film could almost be seen as a best-of reel spliced together from pieces of those pictures, taking as it does the best elements – those that do work well and not just those that help to sell, as so many other attempted duplicates do – from the best stories of the genre and giving them a dedicated story in this entangled ensemble.
This is where I must make something of a mea culpa: opening the review with Carell’s name and a paragraph dedicated to his filmic history is an entirely misleading act, this is not his film; he may get the biggest share of the limelight but he does not stand on the stage alone as the intro suggests, nor is he the Carell that we’ve come to know in the past. The man is a solid dramatic actor for ninety five percent of this movie, only reverting to those signature Carellisms (there are certain sounds and enunciations that man makes that stand as a sort of trademark, it’s weird.) on the rare occasion where the film goes all out for a laugh, but he’s not that mopey kind of anti-comedy character that actors take to to distinguish themselves either, he’s just an average guy and that’s great.
Then on the other hand we have Ryan Gosling who is not, by any stretch of the term, your average guy. Gosling is just gorgeous, both physically and mentally, the man is a god and so his character isn’t much of a stretch, playing as he does the ultimate player. It’s nowhere near his best role – hell it will struggle to reach his top three for the year, but then that is just as much because the guy is having such an incredible year – but he gives it everything he’s got, setting his charisma to stun, and the film is lifted as a result. There are a number of shots that show that even the director had fallen in love with the guy, leaving the camera lingering on him like he does with the throbbing score behind; but who can blame them? I’ll just say this, he can Swayze me any day.
The rest of the cast are, while perhaps not quite as attractive, overall just as good. Emma Stone’s minor role isn’t anything new for her, but she has been stereotyped into that sassy, empowered schtick for a reason. Juliane Moore, my favourite all time actress, is underused and her sub-plot with co-worker Kevin Bacon (dear god what a cast) is the least impressive on near every level, but the pair of them manage to redeem the irregular writing with their own sheer professionalism; adding impetus to all the little looks, beats and vocal quavers of the role, plus it’s always good to just see her on screen. Marisa Tomei is the only unimpressive name in the bunch, including the large number of youths and unknowns; while this film is a perfect example of great actors raising barley good roles you can’t really begrudge a great actress for not fully capitalizing on what is essentially an extra’s role, a cameo if we want to be generous to her star power.
So Crazy, Stupid, Love is more than a little all over the place for most of it’s running time; with it’s themes, tones, characters and narratives all mishing and mashing together in less of a tapestry and more of a hairball. Then in each of these the execution can vary quite dramatically (perhaps something to do with having two directors?) with one scene seeming like it came from a dark Oscar winning drama and another from a frat-boy comedy, but these inconsistencies are not the flaws that they may seem to be, because if anything they are what so distinguish it from the plethora of genre pictures already out there; you could then say that I love the film for it’s flaws more than it’s virtues and isn’t that true of all real love? That I would use that word may shock some, but I did really love this movie: it’s sweet, scathing, bawdy and beautiful in equal parts, it’s life on a stick and isn’t that true of all great cinema?