If Andy (Steve Carell) from The Forty Year Old Virgin had married his high school sweetheart, he’d have probably become Cal in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Cal married the only girl he ever loved (Julianne Moore) and has everything he could ever want: a good job, a nice house and a wonderful family. But apparently it’s not enough for her, as she has an affair with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon). She and Cal separate, leaving Cal in a position he has never been in before: back on the market as a single man. And this is where the fun begins.
Jacob (Ryan Gosling) sees Cal and decides to take him under his wing, to smooth out the wrinkles and turn him from a committed family man to a lothario. At the same time Jacob meets the girl (Emma Stone) that changes his perception of dating and relationships. As Cal comes to grips with his marriage ending, and trying to move on with his life, Jacob comes to grips with meeting a woman who’ll change the way he does things. As both of their personal stories converge in a hilarious finale, one thing is for sure: this might be the funniest comedy of the year.
R-rated comedies have seemingly been on a tear this year and this might be the best of the bunch. It’s not a raunchy comedy, but has enough adult situations and language to justify the R-rating, but it does something we haven’t seen in a comedy in quite some time: take a great story about the nature of love and marry it with some brilliant comedy. It’s something we haven’t really seen outside of Judd Apatow and that group of comedians, of which Carell is a prominent member.
It starts with Gosling and Carell, a perfect combination together that becomes magic every time they’re on screen together.
Carell has perfected the art of being the mid-forty something dweeb in cinema and Cal is an easy guy to empathize with. We pity him but we don’t feel sorry for him; this is his life and he takes full responsibility for it. He’s also a male character in a romantic comedy that stands up for himself, which we haven’t seen in a long time. When his wife keeps talking about when the moment began where they stopped being this concept called “us,” he tells her that it was when she cheated on him. It’s cold but it’s the truth, something we rarely see in film, and it strengthens the character in ways that make us cheer for his transformation. He may not be the most successful man in the world but he’s not spineless or weak. It’s not a flashy role, in many ways resembling his star-making turn in The Forty Year Old Virgin, but without it the film wouldn’t succeed.
It wouldn’t succeed without Gosling, either. Gosling is used to taking such a wide variety of roles so it feels a bit off that he’s playing a handsome, rich guy who has no problem picking up women at bars. But he does it with such flair and panache that it dominates the screen. Gosling owns the screen like a young Steve McQueen in this part; he may be a lothario but he does everything with a noble intention. The way he treats Cal may be cold at times but he’s doing it for a good reason: because he sees something inside of Cal that ought to be there that isn’t.
They make a great combination on screen and the film has a rare comedy magic when they’re together. If a romantic comedy could ever mesh successful with the “bromance” formula that is a cousin to it then this film is a successful combination of the two. As the two bond and become friends, despite two different backgrounds, we can see the changes that happen in both. The film succeeds because of them; without either actor this is a film that would fail horribly. Without the chemistry between them, and without either in great genre performances, this is a film that doesn’t have that next gear to go from good to great.
When it comes to R-rated comedies in 2011, there have been plenty of standouts. But Crazy, Stupid, Love. has raised the bar quite high as perhaps the best comedy of 2011.
Director: Glenn Ficara and John Requa Notable Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon Writer(s): Dan Fogelman
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.