Saturday 24 December 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Year: 2011
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Screenplay: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore

Synopsis is here

It's a film that has date movie stamped all over it and I'm sure most twenty something males wouldn't even bother catching this flick, even if they are die hard Carell fans. But whether I'm right or wrong with my gross generalisation I have to say that Crazy, Stupid Love is a very warm and fun loving feature that's enjoyable because it feels like the makers of the movie actually watch similar movies and tried to find out what works and what doesn't.

I'm not surprised that as a rom-com it works, as directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have tried their hand at such endeavours before. Their d├ębut feature; I love you Phillip Morris was a film I wasn't completely in love with, but had a decent core relationship at it's core. Crazy, Stupid, Love is equally as smart with it's heart and does well to show these characters as flawed, yet relatable. Where I found Phillip Morris to be pretty bland in terms of how the story plays out, Crazy, Stupid, Love takes a well known track but does well to change the scenery. Where I predicted the end of Phillip Morris from a mile off, with this I still had a good time wondering where these people where going to take me.

It helps that the film spends a fair amount of time with most of it's characters and gives them a certain amount of grounding. As the film switches and swoops between characters with sub-plots at times interconnecting and colliding, we never feel too short changed about someone else, even when the films twists are at their most convoluted. It's unfortunate that twice in the movie however, we get two sequences involving Emma Stone and Julianne Moore that sat awkwardly to me for all the wrong reasons. I won't lie and say that part of this is possibly because I'm a slightly selfish twenty something male who doesn't believe that certain characters honesty at that point shouldn't have amounted to the reactions given. In fact both felt like a screenplay bait and switch in order to forcibly manipulate character affections to the audience. The scene with Stone is particularly cumbersome as the other character involved isn't written as well as he could have been.

However the characters (that matter) are not only well constructed, but also well cast. Carell whom I feel has had a patchy film career, carries the film well and his relationship with Julienne Moore is one you can get behind. You could say Moore is slumming it here considering some of the high class work she is usually known for (I always feel more people have to see Far from Heaven), but she is more than effective here. The film does well to try and make sure that you don't hate either character, although you may finding yourself being less than subjective (very dependant on what I mentioned in the above paragraph). Emma Stone once again shows how much of a likable and charming presence she is one screen while Gosling has a lot of fun as this Hitch-lite character who goes though a slighter more predictable arc than everyone else but still manages to hold his own against Carell at the best of times. The banter between the two (and a great Marisa Tomei in support) bring about the best comic moments.

It is also worth noting that Crazy, Stupid, Love is a film that looks as sharp as one of RyGos' suits. Something which you don't expect from many rom-coms is the filmmakers to really take note at what your taking in visually. The film's not has simple but effective visual motifs to illustrate the distance between characters but it also has a rich colour palette and uses soft focus in a wonderfully dreamy way. Strangely it's use of such a technique, particularly in relation to the sub-plot it appears with, reminds me of a John Hughes feature. I don't even think Hughes ever even used such elements, but the strange mix of the cinematography, the "normal" characters, and the good natured feel of it all for whatever reason invoked such memories.

Much like Extract; Crazy, Stupid, Love works well as a film about communication (or lack there of) and also reminds us that relationships are about not only utilising said communication with the other person, but also allowing ones self to be open to conversation. Simple scenes such as Gosling and Stone staying up all night talking, or the small heartfelt moment involving Carell and Moore outside their sons classroom during parents night are the type of scenes that can sink or swim romantic comedies (some don't even bother with such moments.) but when used well, they make the difference between a screenplay going though the motions, and something worthwhile. Crazy, Stupid, Love feels like a film that spent time revising what went well before to make sure it doesn't get pulled up for lack of interest. Because of this, I invested interest.