Friday, December 30, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

There was one point in the beginning of the new Steve Carell comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love where I thought I knew what would happen next. I guess I had written the script in my head, totally predicting what would come next, because I had seen so many comedies along the same lines. And, in fact, Carell himself had been in one of the first comedies of that ilk (The Forty-Year-Old Virgin), so it was a natural assumption. But something happened. The movie took a left, and, in doing so, became a very good movie.

A middle-aged businessman's ("Cal") life changes unexpectedly when his wife (played by Julianne Moore) suddenly asks him for a divorce. He seeks solace in a bar, but doesn't know the first thing about bar etiquette. A young but smooth operator (Ryan Gosling, playing "Jacob") takes pity on him, and shows him how to change his appearance, change his attitude, and pick up women.

And so Cal's first try at this turns out to be a real success with a wild woman (Marisa Tomei) in bed. And he's set free to confidently deal with the many women he meets, always in bars. But rather than show us funny bit by funny bit (and that was a funny bit), weird date by weird date, the film stops showing us examples of his sexual forays, and takes us back to the characters. And that was the right thing to do, introduce us to all the characters in this character-driven movie, and let us get to know them.

In the meantime, Cal's son is in love with his babysitter. And the babysitter is in love with Cal. And... well, it gets even more complicated, always in a funny but strangely endearing way. You end up caring for all of these people, and you hope they find their way. And they do.

One of the best-scripted, best-acted comedies of the year. Carell is better when it isn't just physical comedy, when he has someone to play and somewhere to go. And this is the trifecta for Ryan Gosling this year; this young actor is simply amazing. But keep an eye on the rest of the cast: they will capture your heart.

Thumb's up.


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