The ailing pulse of Hollywood romantic comedy gets a defibrillating blast in Crazy Stupid Love — a sweet and amusing three-tiered love story that is distinguished by its ensemble of gifted comic actors.
It's the second feature from co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, formerly known for writing the subversive comedy hit Bad Santa and who made their directing debut with the wacky true story I Love You Phillip Morris.
Crazy Stupid Love is more conventional and mainstream. It also provides a rare break from the stream of gross-out comedies and bromances that seem to have taken the mantle from old-school romantic comedies.
Working from a script by Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Cars), Ficarra and Requa have made a film as heartfelt as it is fun. And it's full of spry humour from the very opening shot, in which the camera tracks across the restaurant floors, charting date night levels of success by the foot action under the table.
It isn't going so well for Cal (Steve Carell, doing ineffectual to perfection) — and his all-comfort, no-style sneakers probably have something to do with it. It's only moments into the film when his wife of 20-something years Emily (Julianne Moore), tells him she's slept with her colleague (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce.
Cal moves out and drowns his sorrows at a bar, watching with tired, somewhat indignant awe the resident pick-up artist Jacob (a slick, ripped Ryan Gosling) weave his magic with the ladies.
Jacob takes pity and vows to help Cal "rediscover his manhood" — by getting rid of those impotent-nerd sneakers and hitting some pricey LA shops.
Meanwhile, Cal's 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) thinks he's found his soulmate in 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who, in turn, thinks Emily is "batshit crazy" for leaving Cal — even before the Jacob makeover.
Ficarra and Requa nimbly keep several balls in the air. It's not just the superbly poker-faced Carell who carries the comedy; it's all the bit players too in this multi- generational love story, from newcomers like Tipton to Marisa Tomei, who shows up in a brief role of mirth and untamed malice.
Of course the tide-changer comes when it's Jacob's turn to fall in love. And Gosling's scenes with the feisty Hannah (Emma Stone, an absolute delight) — naturally the only girl to turn down his smooth moves — are the most chemistry-fuelled in the film. It's worth seeing just to watch the pair banter.
There are many contrivances, culminating in the kind of Richard Curtis-style public confessional we've all endured a thousand times before. But the film's sheer exuberance and amusement override the transparent mechanics of its conventions.
Crazy Stupid Love is not going to singlehandedly resuscitate the genre, but it's got the kind of rom-com spark that's been sorely missed in multiplexes.
Crazy Stupid Love is now screening.