Monday, August 1, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Cowboys and Aliens wasn't really getting the top notch reviews, and The Boy is a hard sell on "high concept" movies anyway, so I took him and The Flower to see the new Steve Carell flick Crazy, Stupid, Love. And that punctuation (including the period) is part of the title.

It's a simple premise: Middle-aged, nerdy Cal and his wife Emily are splitting up, and Cal ends up under the tutelage of Jacob, a top-notch player who shows him how to score women. Meanwhile, Jacob has his eye on the sexually modest Hanna, and 17-year-old babysitter Jessica has a crush on Cal while fending off the advances of Cal's 13-year-old son Robbie.

So, of course, it's not the plot but the execution.

This is a fairly light movie. Carell is pleasant, of course, and likable even in his wimpy mode, and he's supported by Julianne Moore, who seems pleasingly vulnerable in this role. Ryan Gosling plays Jacob, managing to be charming and strong without seeming sleazy, sort of doing the opposite of his Lars and the Real Girl role. Analeigh Tipton (Jessica) and Jonah Bobo (Robbie) are both very appealing, as well, and the supporting cast includes Kevin Bacon, Beth Littleford and John Carroll Lynch. Oh, and Emma Stone as "good girl" Hannah and Liza Lapira as her slutty friend are a delight.

The comedy moves pretty quickly and consistently, too, with no serious lags or lulls. It's not entirely fluff, as we do see some of the consequences of (multiple, frequent) casual sex, but obviously not the worst ones (or it would cease to be a comedy, most likely). It highlights some of the crazy, stupid aspects—but not really of love so much as sex and infatuation.

There are some technical issues. One of the plot points involves Jacob's strategy of always buying a girl a drink, for example, when everyone knows you don't buy a girl a drink. This sets up a nice awkward moment for Carell to riff on, though, so we can overlook it, along with some of the other aspects of Jacob's "game" that seem improbable.

A more serious issue, to my mind, is the ease with which Carell's character, Cal, falls into his new lifestyle. Given the sort of person he is portrayed as being, his history as we learn it, and his reaction to  circumstances later on, I don't know if I really buy that. I also don't know if the movie's resolution makes sense, given all that.

There's another, less obvious issue that raises its head twice in this movie, with regard to male/female relationships. In both situations (involving different characters), a female becomes unhinged because her relationship with a male didn't work out the way she thought it would.

Now, obviously, this is true to life enough.

In one case, though, we're more inclined to believe that the character is a little unstable, while in the other case, the character is meant to be admirable. But from what we're shown, both cases involve the woman making assumptions that are never stated anywhere, and in both cases we're invited to blame the males for this.

In one case, a one-night stand, this is ridiculous. The other case involves a long-term relationship—but one in which we're given no reason to even understand the woman's attraction to the man, except as a demonstration of her superior character, much less why she would have the expectations of him she does—except, again as a demonstration of her relative superior value.

Not to say I haven't known hot chicks who went for less-than-hot guys because they valued kindness, stability and all the other things that aren't supposed to turn women on, and who didn't end up being just as badly used by them as they would have been by bad boys. But just that the movie doesn't show us any depth, so it sort of looks like women have no responsibility for relationships, men are just supposed to meet their needs (however unspoken), and it's men's fault for not doing so.

Come to think of it, that might have been the over-arching message of the film.

Can't say I approve of that.

But I'm over-analyzing things, I suppose. It's a cute movie, with plenty of laughs. You'll probably enjoy it. Both The Boy and The Flower did, as did I.

There was a distinct shortage of both cowboys and aliens, however.


  1. Howdy Blake. I'm not on twitter anymore so I'm going to try and remember to stop by here and bother you once in awhile.

    I have the same pet peeve about how mainstream type movies and shows always make relationship problems out to be the males fault. It drives me crazy. I don't know if I'm going to see this film or not.

    Good review

  2. What was the 2nd unhinged female example? The 1st was Marisa Tomei/Carrell, for sure. Was the 2nd Hannah/Josh Groban? Now, see, for me, that was law school redux. Those guys were losers who have a J.D.

    I thought the speed of the Carrell change showed how desperate and sad he was. He was really knocked off his game with his wife. I see him as being really willing to try something else. Ultimately to get her back or get her to notice him again.

    I liked that it twisted and ended without a real end. Just like it began in the middle of a conversation it ended with no full resolution. Sorta like life. I also liked all the shoe shots. My dad used to tell me that you can see what kind of a man he is just by looking at his shoes. It's almost a truism in the Army. It's the way to differentiate among those in uniform...the care they place in their footwear.

    I think Steve Carrell can probably not play evil because after all these films/shows with him, I think there's a genial goodness in him that he can't out-act. I love that he puts his wife in the films with him. I would love to see them in a love story together. Except maybe that's too much like real life for reel life.

    I've been thinking of this movie for a few days. I will probably see it again. It was the first movie I've seen with Ryan Gosling and I'd like to see him in other stuff.

    I liked that they winked at the audience with all the mentions of cliches and Hollywood-type turns. I liked that a lot of my old-time NY soap stars of my youth made appearances: Tomei & Moore were on As the World Turns, Bacon was on Guiding Light. I feel like I know all of them. Which, of course, is ridiculous because I don't. I just feel like I do.

    I love your reviews. I trust them.

  3. Please do, Sue! You're missed on Twitter!

    One thing I really liked about Forgetting Sarah Marshall was the way the view of the lead couples' relationship shifted throughout the movie. You're encouraged, at first, to see it in the typical fashion of "guy gets dumped by heartless girl", but then it evolves into something more sophisticated as the movie wears on. (Which is also nice because it's not used to actually excuse her bad behavior.)

    As I said, I'm probably over-analyzing it. It is funny and charming.

  4. Ruth Anne!

    Thank you, that means a lot.

    Yeah, that thing. She had expectations that he didn't meet. But we never saw why she had those expectations and we were supposed to think "Gosh, she's so cute and sweet and, frankly, dating down so he should be on his knees..."

    Now, she is. But if she's walking around with this "you're lucky to have me" attitude toward him? Ick.

    It's a minor point, but we're left to infer a whole lot about that relationship.

  5. Carell's kind of inherent goodness comes through so strongly, the movie ran a real risk of alienating the audience completely from Moore. In fact, I sort of was.

    But there's nowhere good to go with that story.

    Do check out Lars and the Real Girl. It's a very sweet story and Gosling is great in it.

  6. I am pretty impressed that you took the Flower to what seems like a pretty adult movie.

    It is sort of like me letting the kids try some wine at the table. They are better off learning about life with people that love them instead of some nasty dude in middle school.

  7. Cowboys and aliens are on my list.

    Isn't it about those militia guys shooting Mexicans?

  8. I never saw Saving Sarah Marshal. Maybe I should try that one.

    If you see this comment Blake, could you do me a favor and tell @radioaction on twitter that I left twitter and that I might try going back on tumblr if I remember my ID? I'm not sure if he still goes on there though. Also if you could let him know that I'm using Google + under Sue K H. And (Just one more thing!),if you could tell him I'll be checking in on your blog from time to time since you won't do Google + : /

  9. If you see this comment Blake, could you do me a favor and tell @radioaction on twitter that I left twitter

    Did that yesterday. :)

    and that I might try going back on tumblr if I remember my ID? I'm not sure if he still goes on there though. Also if you could let him know that I'm using Google + under Sue K H. And (Just one more thing!),

    I'll let him know!

    if you could tell him I'll be checking in on your blog from time to time since you won't do Google + : /

    I told him that, too! I might do G+, but I have to examine what it means privacy-wise and what-not. (Not that I'm a super-secret dude or nothin', just need to do my due diligence.)

  10. Hey Trooper York, It's Crazy, Stupid, Love. What do you expect?

    Thanks so much Blake for relaying. I hope you do try Google + sometime. The privacy thing isn't an issue for me and I'm very private. If anything, they'll just give our general info for marketing just like happens every time you go on almost any website. Drudge and most of them have it. I can resist ads on sights so it doesn't bother me. G + doesn't have any ads yet.


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