Published Jul 28, 2011What's interesting about this seemingly irreverent comedy from screenwriting and nascent directorial duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Bad Santa, I Love You Phillip Morris) isn't so much their natural knack for comic situations ― nailing the awkward and uncomfortable with natural aplomb ― but their bizarre and unintentional tendency towards antiquated convention.
With Philip Morris, the pair managed to tackle many of the taboos associated with homosexual depictions in mainstream cinema, but ultimately caved to standard conventions of punishment for abhorrent sexual and social behaviour via AIDS and imprisonment. Similarly, in Crazy, Stupid, Love, recently dumped schlep Cal (Steve Carell) dives into the unconventional world of single courtship in his 40s, only to resign himself to standard notions of happiness through a traditionalist monogamous ideologue reiterated by all the periphery characters.
It's an unwelcome and assumptively preachy soapbox that this otherwise peppy and well-acted ensemble rom-com never manages to escape, diving into dirty scenarios and Dirty Dancing pop cultural references with a tenuousness that always defaults to Judeo-Christian values as a safety net.
Even Ryan Gosling's lothario character, set on making Carell into a fine specimen for the Marisa Tomei demographic of women, ultimately finds dissatisfaction with his supposedly empty womanizing lifestyle, discovering a shocking connection with the younger, uncertain Emma Stone that immediately changes his tune to something more accessible.
Of course, seeing as the film is singularly preoccupied with male complexities and personality observations, acknowledging the good, the bad and the insecure in Carell's Cal, it isn't a surprise that old school heteronormative values are paramount. Emma Stone and Julianne Moore are merely comely ginger lasses acting as ciphers in the development of their male counterparts, motivated only by narrative necessity.
And even though all of this is exceedingly grating and dissatisfying, it's important to note that many of the on-screen jokes succeed, with Gosling and Stone firing out consistently entertaining exchanges, and Carell giving one of the best performances of his career.
It's just a shame that amongst the visceral entertainment and fine attention to detail is a message that patronizes an audience that doesn't know any better. (Warner)